New BBC Scotland channel ‘step in right direction’

The BBC said on Wednesday it will make the “biggest single investment in broadcast content in Scotland in more than 20 years.”

It said that from Autumn 2018, the BBC will broadcast a new TV channel — BBC Scotland.

The new channel will broadcast from 7pm every evening and include its own hour-long international news programme at 9pm which will lead to the creation of around 80 new journalist jobs.

“We are also proposing to invest £19 million a year into the new Scottish channel and in digital developments,” said the BBC.

“Together with existing funding of roughly £10 million, that will make the total channel budget around £30 million.”

The Scottish government’s culture secretary Fiona Hyslop welcomed what she called a “step in the right direction” but said the new channel must be properly resourced.

Hyslop said: “The Scottish Broadcasting Commission estimated in 2009 that a similar channel would cost around £75 million a year – more than double the £30 million announced today.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that “it doesn’t deliver everything that everyone wanted” — she said no Scottish 6pm news programme was disappointing — “but progress, and hopefully sign of new thinking.”

Sturgeon added there was “lots to welcome” in the plan and that the Scottish government had long argued for a new BBC Scotland channel.

“Vital that it is funded well,” added the First Minister.

The new channel, BBC Scotland, will:

  • Broadcast from 7pm every evening
  • Provide a full mix of content to “inform, educate and entertain” – including its own integrated hour-long news programme at 9pm (15 mins at 7pm weekends), edited and presented from Scotland
  • Work in close partnership with the creative sector, other national institutions and other broadcasters to produce and acquire content
  • Work in collaboration with other BBC television channels to offer additional content
  • Have its own prominent EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) slot on broadcast channels in Scotland
  • Be available online and in iPlayer in HD in Scotland and across the UK
  • Support the delivery of extra programmes for BBC Alba including weekend news in Gaelic
  • Together with existing funding, the channel will have an initial budget of over £30 million

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: “We know that viewers in Scotland love BBC television, but we also know that they want us to better reflect their lives and better reflect modern Scotland.

“It is vital that we get this right. The best way of achieving that is a dedicated channel for Scotland.

“It’s a channel that will be bold, creative and ambitious, with a brand-new Scotland-edited international news programme at its heart.

“The BBC has the luxury of having first-class creative teams and brilliant journalists, who I know will make this new channel a huge success.

“The additional investment in Scottish drama and factual programming rightly recognises both the need to do more across our output and the huge pool of talent available in Scotland.

“We do make great programmes here, such as Shetland, Britain’s Ancient Capital – Secrets of Orkney, Two Doors Down and the brilliant Still Game – but we do need to do more.

“All of this combined amounts to the biggest single investment by the BBC in broadcast content in Scotland in over twenty years.

“This will be a huge boost for BBC Scotland and for the Scottish creative industries.

“This is an exciting time for BBC Scotland and for the millions of Scots who love TV.”

The proposals are subject to approval by the BBC’s new unitary board and “as necessary” by Ofcom.

The Scottish government’s culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “This is a real shift in the right direction from the BBC and responds to calls we’ve made for some time for a new TV channel for Scotland.

“While the increased investment in both journalism and wider production in Scotland is long overdue, this is a very positive development.

“The Scottish Broadcasting Commission estimated in 2009 that a similar channel would cost around £75 million a year – more than double the £30 million announced today.

“It’s vital that the new BBC Scotland channel has complete commission and editorial independence, and is provided with the funding needed to match ambition.

“The new channel will increase the proportion of the licence fee raised in Scotland that is spent in Scotland in years to come – but sadly will still fall well short of the proportiate share being spent in Northern Ireland and Wales.

“We continue to call for the BBC to put Scotland on an equal footing with other devolved nations.

“I welcome the additional £20 million for Scotland to make BBC network programmes, which will strengthen growth in our vibrant creative industries.

“We want to see this investment continue to increase so that Scottish content on the wider BBC network is not sidelined.

“Investment in 80 new journalism jobs is fantastic news, and goes to underline that Scotland has the talent and skills to produce an hour-long news and current affairs programme covering issues from home and around the world.

“In the intervening 18 months before the new TV channel is established, the BBC must invest in quality news and affairs programming so that they deliver content that is relevant to the people of Scotland as we move through Brexit, the triggering of Article 50 and beyond.”