BBC bosses announce two new radio stations for Scotland

Director-general Lord Hall appeared before Holyroods culture committee. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Director-general Lord Hall appeared before Holyroods culture committee. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

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BBC chiefs have confirmed they are looking to push ahead with the creation of two national radio stations in Scotland split between music and speech.

Plans for the change will be stepped up as part of a new investment package in the corporation north of the border announced this week.

It follows a successful pilot last year, BBC Scotland director Donalda MacKinnon told MSPs yesterday. She was appearing before Holyrood’s culture committee with UK director-general Lord Hall after plans for a stand-alone Scottish TV channel were unveiled this week.

Radio Scotland currently has one channel but includes opt-outs on different frequencies for local services in Orkney, the Western Isles and Shetland. Ms MacKinnon said she was “hugely proud” of its radio services.

But she added: “There’s much more that we could do. I think with this additional investment in content, we need to work out how we extract as much value from that investment as possible and I’m pretty ambitious when it comes to radio.

“I’ve already said to teams that I would like to see us being able to provide audiences in Scotland with two English language radio services – two distinctive services – one speech, one music.”

A pilot entitled Radio Scotland Music Extra ran over the St Andrew holiday period last year.

Ms MacKinnon added: “That proved to us we could offer something really quite precious and I really want to explore the possibilities of being able to deliver that.”

The venture would need “various approvals” but Ms MacKinnon said she was keen to push ahead and seek these.

Corporation chiefs defended the £30 million budget for the new TV channel, which will include a 9pm national news bulletin, after the Scottish Broadcasting Commission previously suggested that such a venture would cost £75m.

Committee convener Joan McAlpine questioned the amount of resources being put behind the new channel, adding: “You spent £60m, for example, commissioning Match of the Day rights, so £30m doesn’t go that far.” Lord Hall said that, with the new channel, spending in Scotland would rise to 68 per cent of licence fee cash raised here.

He said: “We’re moving and we’re shifting, and I think the challenge now to BBC Scotland and ourselves is to see whether in terms of the network spending we can do more.”

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