A REVIEW of the BBC must be used as an opportunity to improve services and deliver better coverage for Scotland, the Culture Secretary has said.
Fiona Hyslop said the UK Government’s Green Paper on the corporation’s future must not be used as a cover “to slash and diminish” the broadcaster.
This week’s annual report from the BBC showed that it is currently failing to meet the expectations of the people of Scotland.Fiona Hyslop
UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said the BBC charter review would raise questions about the overall purpose of the broadcaster, the services and content it should provide, how it should be funded and how it should be governed and regulated.
A deal has already been agreed which will see the broadcaster take on responsibility for funding free TV licences for the over-75s, while the review will consider whether the corporation should pursue a narrower range of programming and examine the future of the licence fee.
The Green Paper comes two days after the BBC published its annual report.
Analysis from audience councils and focus groups found 48 per cent of people in Scotland think the BBC is good at representing their life in news and current affairs content, compared with 61 per cent in England, 61 per cent in Northern Ireland and 55 per cent in Wales.
Ms Hyslop, said: “This week’s annual report from the BBC showed that it is currently failing to meet the expectations of the people of Scotland.
“More than half the nation doesn’t believe the BBC properly reflects their lives, and we’ve seen a decline in production spend in Scotland. These BBC failures must fuel positive reform, not furnish excuses for cuts.”
She added: “BBC reform needs to deliver improved coverage of the life of Scotland to the people of Scotland, an international perspective from Scotland and increases in Scottish production levels to help grow the industry.
“We’ve made clear the Scottish Government intends to play an active role in the charter renewal process and despite the UK Government failing to fully consult on the green paper or licence fee settlement we will be working to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard.
“Charter renewal must be used as an opportunity to improve services that will help it better deliver for Scotland and protect the BBC’s independence - not used as a cover for the UK Government to slash and diminish the BBC.”
Scottish Labour’s culture spokeswoman Claire Baker said: “For the first time, the Scottish Parliament has a role to play in charter renewal and it is vital the public have a clear and loud voice in the whole process.
“This is an important charter for the BBC as it looks to adapt to the challenges and opportunities that new technology and changing viewing habits bring.
We need to make sure that these arguments are being made with the public in mind.
“We must not have a situation where politicians use the renewal process to settle old scores. The public will not forgive them if they did.”