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BBC Scotland staff in row over window blinds

Staff at BBC Scotland HQ have to phone England to alter electronic blinds. Picture: TSPL

Staff at BBC Scotland HQ have to phone England to alter electronic blinds. Picture: TSPL

  • by ALISTAIR GRANT
 

THE BBC has been condemned as “ludicrous” after it emerged that staff in Scotland have to call an office in England - for permission to open the blinds.

The corporation has outsourced facilities management to a West Midlands-based firm which has to approve the movement of blinds 307 miles away at BBC Scotland’s HQ in Glasgow.

An exasperated insider said the “centralised help desk” in Redditch, Worcestershire, calls back and allocates the job to a Scottish member of staff.

The BBC - which takes £3.7bn a year from licence fee payers - has been under heavy fire in recent years for its treatment of Scottish news and other programming.

But staff at BBC Scotland’s imposing glass headquarters next to the Clyde are frustrated that basic decisions about building control are being taken in England.

The building has electronically-controlled blinds to manage the amount of sunlight getting in.

An insider said: “There is a number you have to phone to open or shut the blinds.

“You have to phone this number in England.

“If you want to take a partition away in a green room - you have to phone the number in England.

“They then phone staff in Scotland who actually carry out the action.

“It’s a total bureaucracy - it’s ridiculous.”

Professor John Robertson, who specializes in Media Politics at the University of the West of Scotland, slammed the system.

“It must be pretty frustrating for people who work there. It just seems ludicrous.

“This means that the management of the building is being run from outside the country - and that strikes me as strange.

“BBC Scotland as a whole is far less autonomous than it needs to be to do its job properly.

“It’s all part of the bigger problem within the BBC - it’s symptomatic of a wider issue.

“The people who run BBC Scotland identify the BBC as a British institution - there is a deeply ingrained unionism.”

“This is part of the wider process of the centralization of resources and capital in England.”

An SNP spokesman said they would create a new public service broadcaster, “initially based on the staff and assets of BBC Scotland”, in the event of a Yes vote on independence.

“Crucially the Scottish Broadcasting Service would develop services to reflect the broad interests, values and outlook of the people of Scotland,” said the spokesman.

Critics argue Scotland needs its own Six O’Clock News to adequately cover national issues post devolution.

In May staff at the corporation submitted more than 130 anonymous reviews to the Glassdoor website criticising the BBC as “bureaucratic” and “Orwellian”.

And last year Scottish comedy legend Greg Hemphill slammed the organisation for its decision to drop his new sitcom Blue Haven after the pilot was made.

The star wrote: “BBC gives Scotland enough money to make one sitcom annually.

“They’d give us more, but they have to pay Danny Dyer to be in Eastenders.”

The row was the latest in a series of clashes between Hemphill and the BBC.

In 2011 he called BBC television chiefs “a*******s” after they refused to show his comedy sketch show Burnistoun south of the border.

Celebrated Scots writer and creator of Rab C. Nesbitt, Ian Pattison, also condemned the decision making process of BBC Scotland as “labyrinthine”.

A BBC spokesman said they outsource facilities management “to one provider for the whole of the UK as part of its strategy of getting best value for licence fee payers and investing as much as possible into programme making”.

He added: “Under this system, staff can call one centralised service centre, which is available 24 hours a day. Any works are then allocated to local teams.”

 

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