BBC aims to better serve Scotland
UK Culture and Media Secretary John Whittingdale’s White Paper received a tentatively positive response from the Scottish Government, though there was disappointment that it appeared limited in scope.
A new board will replace the BBC Trust and will have up to 14 members, with the BBC appointing at least half and the UK Government no more than six.
The inclusion of government members has prompted fears of political interference on the corporation’s output and strategy.
BBC Director General Tony Hall said there would be a Scottish “sub-board”.
In a letter to Scotland’s culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, Lord Hall said it would oversee Scottish services.
“If implemented, this will provide clear accountability for the services provided in each nation and much more ability to shift resources around within each nation’s dedicated services, further devolving decision-making to the nations.”
Among the key changes are the naming of employees and freelancers who earn more than £450,000, although their actual salaries will not be disclosed.
The licence fee will continue for at least 11 years, and will be raised in line with inflation. Those watching programmes on iPlayer will must have a licence.
There were calls for the the licence to be replaced with subscriptions, as with Sky and other channels, or advertising. The BBC will look at whether it should make some of its content available via a subscription-only model.
A big change is the move to an independent regulator. Ofcom will take over responsibility for monitoring performance.
There is a commitment to make more programmes in the regions which will be a boost to independent production companies.
Lord Hall outlined a series of plans to improve the BBC’s representation of the wider UK. They include:
- Making Scotland a “centre for excellence” for factual television production;
- Appointing a drama commissioning editor responsible for each nation, reporting to the controller of BBC drama commissioning;
- A comedy commissioner to be based in Glasgow;
- BBC “writers’ rooms” to develop new writing talent in each nation;
- Allocating additional funding to improve dedicated services in the nations;
- Agreeing new partnerships with creative sector agencies in Scotland.
He said the BBC had “transformed” how much content was made in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“But we accept those programmes have not done enough to reflect each nation to itself, and to the rest of the country,” he added.
The BBC will also adapt its news output in each nation “to reflect greater devolution and changes in our democracy”, the director general said.