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Media concern over impact

New BBC Scotland channel approved despite rivals’ concerns

Des Clarke

Des Clarke: switch to new television channel (pic by Terry Murden)


 

Media regulator Ofcom has given the final go-ahead to the BBC’s plans for a dedicated Scotland TV channel.

It will have an annual budget of £32m and the number of jobs created has increased from 80 to 140. It is expected to begin broadcasting next year.

The channel will broadcast from mid-day to midnight and will include a global news programme at 9pm each weekday. It will also have;

  • new programmes that reflect Scottish life, including the opportunity to premiere some new comedy and drama
  • repeats and archive programmes – about 50% of shows on the channel will be repeat material
  • core broadcast hours every day from 19:00 until midnight

Daily Business understands that the new programming will include a television version of the popular comedy news quiz Breaking the News hosted by Des Clarke on BBC Radio Scotland since 2015.

In its final assessment, Ofcom said: “We recognise that there are uncertainties about the take-up of the new channel and the content it will include.

“However, we are satisfied the BBC has shown its proposal will deliver public value by broadening the options available to viewers in Scotland, providing a greater Scottish-focus in its news coverage and delivering more content designed to reflect the lives of people in Scotland.

“Any adverse impacts on fair and effective competition resulting from the proposals as set out in the BBC’s submission to Ofcom are likely to be fairly limited.”

The Director of BBC Scotland Donalda MacKinnon said she was “delighted” with Ofcom’s formal confirmation of the plans.

In an email to staff she wrote: “This is excellent news and provides us with the springboard to continue planning, with confidence, for launch which is scheduled for February 2019.”

However, despite a pledge to create 32 new ‘local democracy’ jobs for other media, there have been  expressions of concern from the Scottish Newspaper Society, Scottish Daily Mail, Newsquest and the News Media Association, because of the ability of newspapers to attract and retain staff in the light of the BBC’s proposal.

Ofcom said it did not believe the BBC’s proposal would disproportionately impact existing print news providers in Scotland, as only half of the 80 new journalism roles will be in newsgathering, with the other half in production.

BBC Scotland

BBC Scotland: denies it will adversely impact other media (pic: Terry Murden)


 

“Given the level of newsgathering recruitment proposed and the fact that the BBC may recruit many of the roles from a range of sources, including in-house from the BBC itself as well as from the wider broadcasting sector, we remain of the view that the BBC’s proposal does not pose a significant threat to the ability of Scottish newspapers to attract or retain journalists,” the report said.

Some of the groups, including the SNS and NMA, also argued that the size of the proposed expansion of BBC Scotland’s news output was “disproportionate” for the needs of a one-hour news programme.

Some of the groups, including the SNS and NMA, also argued that the size of the proposed expansion of BBC Scotland’s news output was “disproportionate” for the needs of a one-hour news programme.

They raised concerns the BBC would use the additional journalists to expand the BBC’s digital written output, in particular with a focus on longer investigative pieces and bespoke online content, bringing the corporation in direct competition with established commercial news publishers.

In response, the BBC told Ofcom: “The additional investment in the news programme will be unlikely to drive an increase in the number of stories covered on BBC Online News Scotland.

“TV news coverage will always tend to cover a subset of stories published online.”

Daily Business Editor Terry Murden said he was disappointed the the news website, launched almost four years ago, had not been consulted at any time on the impact of the proposal on online media.

“There is still too much attention focused on print and a general lack of appreciation of how modern media is consumed,” he said.

 

 



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