Stop treating Scotland as colony, BBC told

BBC Scotland's Glasgow headquarters at Pacific Quay, which opened in 2007. Picture: Ian Rutherford

BBC Scotland's Glasgow headquarters at Pacific Quay, which opened in 2007. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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A GROUP of influential television producers and media academics will this week add their voices to calls for a comprehensive federal restructuring of the BBC in order to better represent Scotland.

Some of the experts have even called for BBC2 or BBC Four to be moved to Scotland.

One of those giving evidence at Tuesday’s meeting of Holyrood’s education and culture committee to discuss BBC charter renewal will be Neil Blain, professor emeritus of communications at the University of Stirling. He will tell MSPs that BBC Scotland’s decision-making tends to be “cosmetic” due to a lack of power and argues that the BBC has “no strategy for Scottish broadcasting”.

Also giving evidence is Robert Beveridge, a former lecturer in media policy and regulation at Edinburgh’s Napier University, who argued that rather than being in step or ahead of the changes to Scotland post-devolution, the BBC was “now well behind.”

He even suggested that the aim of creating a BBC Scotland television channel with a ring-fenced and benchmarked budget could be achieved by establishing BBC2 or BBC Four in Scotland.

“Having the headquarters of a channel with funds and commissioning power based in Scotland would transform the Scottish broadcasting and creative industry sector.”

“Incidentally, it might also help the creative industries in the north of England and Northern Ireland At a stroke, this would increase production and thus economic impact and investment.”

In his submission, John Archer, the founder of Hopscotch Films and a former chief executive of Scottish Screen, described the BBC as Scotland’s “dominant cultural force” and “biggest cultural office,” but stressed BBC Scotland “remains too much of the branch office of an empire, subject to the imperial rule of the centre in London.”

All money raised for the BBC in Scotland should, he said, be spent from Scotland. “It is shocking that it is otherwise.”

“Scotland would still be paying its fair share towards the programmes that are made elsewhere and screened in Scotland. But Scotland would decide what is made here. Money gives power.”

Tern Television, whose programmes for the BBC include The Beechgrove Garden, described Scotland’s place under the existing governance arrangements as a “colony,” and said a unitary board should be ultimately responsible for BBC Scotland, with representation on a UK-wide board, a proposal also backed by Matchlight, MG Alba and Independent Producers Scotland.

In its submission to the committee, the BBC said it welcomed the scrutiny being applied to its existing governance make-up.

It added: “Whatever models of governance and regulation are deemed appropriate, they will need to operate in such a way as to ensure there is no diminution in the level or quality of representation of Scotland’s interests at the highest levels in the BBC.”

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