What we know about BBC’s new channel for Scotland

BBC director general Tony Hall  has announced a new Scottish TV channel. Picture: John Devlin
BBC director general Tony Hall has announced a new Scottish TV channel. Picture: John Devlin
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In an announcement that shocked many this morning, the BBC has announced sweeping new changes to the services delivered to Scotland.

A new channel will be launched, broadcasting in Scotland delay from 7pm every day, and a new ‘Scottish nine’ will offer international news from a Scottish perspective every evening.

The channel will have a budget of £30m, made up from some £10m of current funds, and upwards of £19m of new investment.

Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, hailed the move as the most significant investment in Scottish broadcasting in over two decades.

It comes after years of criticism of the BBC for not directing enough resources to Scotland, and calls for a ‘Scottish Six’ nightly news programme.

We look beyond the headlines for some of the detail in the new proposals.

A massive boost?

The investment announced by BBC bosses has already been pored over by concerned parties and compared unfavourably to other budgets.

Comedian Rory Bremner noted that the £30m figure was just £5m more than the reported budget for Channel 4’s recent acquisition the Great British Bake Off.

It is true, that with megabucks money still in TV for shows and channels that pull in ratings, £30m is relatively small beer.

But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t significant.

It is the around the same as the figures for BBC Four, which is praised for its cultural content and is the home of many critically acclaimed imports and original series.

The jobs figures alone (around 80 posts are being created) would be hailed by politicians of all stripes had they been announced in the private sector.

The million-pound plus for BBC Alba is not to be sniffed at either.

Why have the BBC announced it?

There’s no denying that this decision is partly to head off long-standing criticism that in the post-devolution years Scotland is still poorly served by the BBC.

Unlike in England, where the complaints are off that the BBC is too big and bloated and is strangling competition, Scottish politicians often want to see the BBC expand.

Previous BBC bigwigs in television have bemoaned the daily ‘chorus of criticism’ that comes their way, with allegations of bias never too far from the lips of some outspoken commentators and politicians.

The motivations aren’t all political, the BBC has been undertaken a long-term project in which it reassess how it delivers services to the regions and nations of the UK.

The responses to surveys and other research, including the discovery that Scotland watches more TV than the rest of the UK, have been a massive factor in today’s announcement.

Please all of the people

That last thought might be a little too optimistic.

There is a rich vein of scepticism in many walks of life in Scotland about how benign, or otherwise, the BBC is.

Protesters were a semi-regular feature outside the Glasgow offices in the build-up to the referendum on independence in 2014.

Many in the SNP, from Alex Salmond down, have singled out the corporation and even particular journalists, for their ire.

Initial response to today’s announcement from Scotland’s ruling party hasn’t filled observers with confidence that they have accepted a Scottish nine as an alternative to their much-vaunted Scottish Six.

Angus MacNeil, a senior MP, reacted to today’s news by retweeting an old tweet of his own that demanded ‘give us back our cash BBC’.

Craig Murray, an SNP supporter, wrote on his blog that they new ‘anti Scottish channel’ was a useful propaganda tool ahead of the next independence referendum.

And therein lies the problem for the BBC. For a significant portion of Scots, from the ordinary man and woman to our politicians, trust is often so low that any investment, even a positive one, becomes a hard sell to a sceptical nation.