Leader: Moving offices won’t solve BBC’s problems

Holyrood is keen to find out how the BBC can 'better reflect the diversity of the Scottish audience'. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Holyrood is keen to find out how the BBC can 'better reflect the diversity of the Scottish audience'. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A GROUP of academics and influential television producers want to see a massive restructuring of the BBC, with some even calling for a UK channel to be headquartered in Scotland.

The demands of these experts will be music to the ears of the SNP, which is relentless in its criticism of what it describes as the corporation’s metropolitan bias. But we wonder if such a move would truly serve viewers.

Professor Robert Beveridge – a former lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University – says that the BBC will struggle to retain the trust of Scottish licence fee payers unless it changes in “significant ways”, and suggests that either BBC2 or BBC Four could be run from Scotland.

Previously, the BBC responded to criticisms that it was too sharply focussed on London and the South of England by moving large parts of its operation to Salford Quays, Manchester.

But the truth is that the impact of that move is undetectable to the viewer. The BBC – imperfect, as all large organisations are – continues commission programming throughout the UK. The move to Manchester seems little more than symbolic, despite the massive cost involved.

Where, then, is the sense in spending millions of pounds more in a similar move of staff to Scotland? How would that lead to a “better deal” for Scots?

However, at the very least, the BBC needs to be dramatically reorganised to recognise the world of digital media. Currently, publicly-­funded BBC digital services are given an unfair advantage over private companies. We need to examine whether the BBC really should, as it now is, be assisted in the battle with other media outlets for website “hits” while it still has the resource for costly cosmetic exercises such as the move to Manchester.

BBC Scotland has the power to commission programmes and to fight to get its productions on to the UK-wide network. If that’s something that happens right now, without BBC2 or BBC Four being run from offices north of the Border, then what difference would it make if offices were relocated?

Tokenism of this nature is not going to address the many questions over the BBC’s purpose and its funding and how Scotland is best served by broadcasters.