BBC admits need for new Scots shows

BBC Scotland chiefs have admitted they are unhappy with the number of high-­quality drama and comedy shows being made north of the border.

Jack Jarvis, played by Ford Kiernan, and Victor McDade, played by Greg Hemphill, in Still Game.
Picture: Alan Peebles/BBC Scotland/PA Wire
Jack Jarvis, played by Ford Kiernan, and Victor McDade, played by Greg Hemphill, in Still Game. Picture: Alan Peebles/BBC Scotland/PA Wire

Senior figures at Pacific Quay have said the corporation is failing to meet the demands of audiences for distinctive programming for a Scottish audience.

And they have also conceded that not enough shows which are either made in or set in Scotland are making it onto the UK-wide network.

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Senior figures have set out wide-ranging ambitions, including establishing a “bedrock of activity” to support Scotland’s screen sector and getting a national film and television school off the ground.

Speaking at the launch of BBC Scotland’s new season of programmes, which is spearheaded by Still Game’s comeback, they said the “holy grail” for the next few years was a “consistent, constant, wide-range of production and commissioning in Scotland”.

Donalda Mackinnon, head of programmes at BBC Scotland, admitted the portrayal of Scotland in network comedy and drama was “not where I would want it to be”.

She added: “That bedrock of activity that BBC Scotland should be supporting is hugely important. We can’t do it on our own, we need to work with others, but we shouldn’t under-estimate it.

“I wish we had a sufficient critical mass of production across all levels to keep people here rather than having the talent drain that sometimes happens when people go elsewhere. The holy grail is having a consistent, constant, wide range of production and commissioning here in Scotland. That’s the ambition.

“Portrayal of Scotland to Scotland and the rest of the UK is hugely important. We probably don’t do enough of it … in fact, I know we don’t do enough of it. I think we need to embrace change.

“We shouldn’t always be self-consciously making programmes about ourselves. We should be making programmes about any subject under the sun because we’re qualified to do so. A really healthy mix is important.”

Ewan Angus, commissioning editor, said the key aim for BBC Scotland in future years was to produce more high-quality drama “with a really authentic voice”.

He added: “We know that’s what the audience tells us they want and that would have to be the priority.

“In a few years time, if we are able to turn around and see that we have significantly increased the amount of drama produced out of Scotland and for Scotland and for the wider world, we’ll be starting to make real progress.”