BBC news 'biased towards England'
THE BBC's UK-wide network news coverage is slanted towards England, according to the monitoring body that examines how the corporation is serving licence fee payers.
On the day that the BBC published its annual review, a report by the Audience Council Scotland (ACS) said that there was a "bias" towards stories about England on the UK network.
The ACS praised Scottish dramas such as Lip Service and comedies such as Gary: Tank Commander, Limmy's Show and Burnistoun.
But the independent body that advises the BBC Trust was less enthused by the way news from Scotland was covered on the UK stage.
Citing Radio 4 as an example, it said the BBC's flagship current affairs and cultural station had a "world view rooted in the south of England".
The ACS's report said: "Audience engagement suggested that BBC Radio 4 listeners were strongly appreciative of the high quality of content, including some specifically relating to Scotland.
"However, questions were raised about the volume and consistency of this provision and there was some concern that the station did not have a genuine pan-UK perspective."
The report suggested that coverage about Scottish issues such as alcohol abuse and sectarianism was not detailed enough on a UK-wide level.
"The ACS would like to see deeper analysis and a stronger sense of challenge in coverage of nations' issues such as sectarianism or alcohol abuse (at nations and network level), and a response to the problem of finding the right balance of coverage between Scottish and England only-issues in news," the report said.
"Content research undertaken by the (BBC] Trust demonstrates a continued bias on network news towards stories about England."
The report also raised concerns that an absence of opt-out programming on BBC One HD could lead to Scots choosing the new HD channel missing out on programmes such as Reporting Scotland.
The suggestion of a bias towards England led to the SNP renewing its calls for broadcasting powers to be devolved to Scotland.
SNP culture spokesman Pete Wishart said: "Scottish audiences should not have to get all their national news read through a London-based agenda.
"Coverage may have increased recently but we should not be in a position of every year having to tell the BBC that it isn't doing enough and that viewers continue to feel disenfranchised.
"The BBC's failure to provide Scottish services on HD, including Scottish news, shows how little thought the BBC in London has given to the nations it should represent. Even during the recent elections anyone watching on HD in Scotland would not have seen any Scottish coverage."Mr Wishart added: "Devolving broadcasting would put more pressure on the BBC to meet Scottish needs and a Scottish Digital Network would finally allow Scottish audiences to receive the programming and perspective they clearly want."
Although the ACS was critical of UK coverage of Scottish issues, the BBC's annual report noted that when it came to comedy and drama there were more Scottish-made programmes making the transition to a UK audience.
The number of hours of television produced in Scotland for national UK network channels rose by 150 per cent from 243 to 611 year-on-year.
BBC director general Mark Thompson said the BBC had delivered outstanding quality programmes and content to all audiences.
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