Committee of MPs are right to recommend shake-up in broadcaster’s news output north of the border
MPs have recommended setting up a Scottish Six news programme broadcasting Scottish, UK and international news from Scotland.
Such a move to greatly broaden the scope of output is opportune because many of the main stories which lead the present UK flagship news bulletins, be they in health - such as the strike earlier this year by junior doctors in England but not in Scotland - or education, have little or no relevance to audiences north of the border.
That is not to say they are not of note or raise important issues, legal, social or otherwise.
Also, post devolution, many of the items leading the news agenda in Scotland are likely to be of very little interest to viewers in the rest of the UK.
Scotland already has many talented and experienced journalists and as long as the Scottish Six has access to the reports and journalists covering the world for the BBC and the rest of the UK then it should make for more relevant content for Scotland without losing the international perspective.
Such proposals for altering the broadcasting structure and relocating part of its remit has long been controversial with similar proposals ruled out in 2006 by the BBC’s then director general Mark Thomson.
However, a decade later and the proposals are being looked on favourably by Lord Hall, the current director-general, who has worked to allay criticisms by senior management and the somewhat negative feedback from focus groups in Scotland which pinpointed a possible fall in quality of output.
Damian Collins, who chaired the influential commons, culture, media and sport committee, noted that the BBC had previously noted the dissatisfaction which current arrangements generated and pointed out that a precedent had already been set by BBC Radio Scotland which set and broadcast its own running order of home and international news.
A document released by the BBC in February looking at various options said the Audience Council for Scotland had said that more depth and analysis of Scottish news was needed, and that the “Scottish Six is a great opportunity which not be squandered.”
With the more positive tone and careful note being taken of the need to broaden the remit and scope of output, there is every reason the Scottish Six should be a success.
The same committee also turned its attention to the secrecy surrounding the attractive salaries paid to a number of the BBC’s broadcasting stars saying those who earn more than the Prime Minister should be forced to publish their licence payer-funded salaries.
Claims that going public would lead to “poaching” by rival channel talent headhunters were dismissed with the straightforward reasoning that nothing in showbiz remains secret for long and that artists and agents would be well aware of the going rate. By the same logic they said the same transparency should apply to BBC executives whose salaries also come from licence fee payers.
Keeping such details from public scrutiny is a backward step and not fit for a publicly-funded broadcaster.
The dishonours system
David Cameron’s honours list has provided grist to the mill for those who want to see the honours system thoroughly reformed or even abolished.
As well as the ludicrous honouring of a stylist who helped Mrs Cameron, a wealthy professional working woman, choose her clothes and accessories, gongs and knighthood are going to some dubbed “Cameron’s cronies” who were in the Remain camp including Chancellor Philip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.
Honours also go to those who made donations to the party and number 10 staff paid to serve whichever political leader is elected.
While the technical explanation is that such recommendations go before an independent committee and are then sent back to the current Prime Minister to be signed off, this is unlikely to satisfy the anger of those who do want to see honours going to those who have gone beyond the call of duty for their country and fellow citizens. But given some of the names on this list Mr Cameron has made a mockery of the honours system, honouring people for service to Cameron rather than to their country.
Mr Cameron started off as Prime Minister saying he wanted to “clean up politics” and made great play of how he wanted to help hardworking Britons.
But as the leaked list reveals, he has made sure he has been able to extract every last bit of privilege for his friends and supporters.
Perhaps if David Cameron had been a successful prime minister and not the most inept and damaging one the country has seen since the war then we might have more sympathy with him getting to reward those who were good to him.