The BBC and the government were in disagreement on Thursday over the future of a “Scottish Six” news bulletin.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell has suggested that a programme wholly anchored and produced in Scotland would be at odds with the corporation’s royal charter.
He said that, while there was no barrier to an enhanced Scottish bulletin, UK-wide broadcasting should not cease.
His comments came after BBC chiefs said they were planning to push ahead with preparatory work for a Scottish Six bulletin after publication of the corporation’s new charter yesterday.
UK Culture Secretary Karen Bradley told the Commons that the BBC should “reflect the national mood and the national news that is important across the whole nation” when asked about the issue by SNP chiefs. She added: “It is for the BBC who have operational independence in this matter to determine exactly they make that happen.”
However, Mr Mundell said: “The charter in draft makes clear and the BBC accepts that it is a national broadcasting organisation and, therefore, in those terms it is providing a national news service across the United Kingdom as a United Kingdom broadcaster.
“Of course, everyone accepts that we have to make sure the BBC fully understands the devolved settlement, not just in Scotland but in Wales and Northern Ireland too, so that it is properly reflected in news output.
“Clearly, the BBC is there to provide, at peak times, a national news service across the UK and I’m clear that is what the charter in its terms of making specific reference to the whole of the United Kingdom means.”
He went on: “Obviously, I don’t prejudge the BBC’s editorial decisions - it would be quite wrong to do that. But I don’t think the Scottish Six is an editorial decision, it’s a policy decision. Quite clearly, the charter makes it clear that the BBC provides a national UK news service and, therefore, the editorial decisions are about how news in Scotland and other parts of the UK is provided, it’s not about whether there is a national news service or not.”
BBC chiefs insisted yesterday that the go-ahead for the show would be an editorial decision for the corporation and that nothing in the charter would preclude such a bulletin.
Pilots for a proposed Scottish Six have already been carried out and more will be done next week.
A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: “Work on reviewing our news output, including reviewing our integrated news. We hope to conclude that work and research by the end of the year.” Holyrood will also have the power to hold the BBC to account for the corporation’s performance north of the border, under the terms of the new Royal charter.