BBC announces new '˜Scottish 9' on dedicated new Â£30m channel
Politicians of all parties and union leaders have welcomed news that the channel, which is due to start broadcasting in the autumn of next year, will see 80 jobs created for journalists.
The National Union of Journalists said the announcement, described by the BBC as the biggest single investment in broadcast content in Scotland in more than 20 years, was greeted with “massive relief” by its workforce in Glasgow when it was announced by director-general Tony Hall.
However, there was some disappointment that the BBC had rejected calls for a so-called “Scottish Six”, the long-standing SNP demand for an hour-long news bulletin to replace the existing arrangement of a UK news programme at 6pm on BBC One followed by Reporting Scotland.
The channel will be available from 7pm to midnight every evening and accessed via digital services such as Freeview, Sky, online and the iPlayer. The new news programme will be broadcast at 9pm on weekdays.
The BBC has also been urged to make sure that the new channel, which was proposed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival two years ago, is properly resourced.
It will have a budget of around £30 million, £19m of which is extra funding for BBC Scotland, while a further £20m will be made available for the making of drama and factual programmes in Scotland for the UK-wide network.
An additional £1.2m has been allocated to Gaelic channel BBC Alba, taking its budget to £20m, which will allow weekend news bulletins to be broadcast. Around £11m of the budget for the new channel will come from programmes currently made for BBC Two in Scotland.
Reporting Scotland and other Scottish opt-outs such as the soap opera River City and the countryside programme Landward will remain on BBC One. But some Scottish programmes such as Sportscene and the Thursday evening current affairs programme Timeline migrate to the new channel.
In future, Scottish-produced programmes such as Kirsty Wark’s recent The Insider’s Guide to the Menopause, Burns in the USA and the fly-on-the-wall documentary Sighthill will be shown on the new channel rather than BBC Two.
The NUJ in Scotland said it warmly welcomed the announcement from the BBC, which it said took most staff at Pacific Quay “by surprise”, saying it had tackled many of their concerns about future resourcing of news and current affairs.
National organiser Paul Holleran said: “It is great news, but we see this as the first step towards growing the investment in BBC Scotland and a move towards increasing the amount of spend north of the Border in line with the money raised here through the licence fee.”
Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, who had led Scottish Government demands for a shake-up of BBC Scotland in the past few years, said: “This is a real shift in the right direction from the BBC and responds to calls we’ve made for some time for a new TV channel for Scotland.
“While the increased investment in both journalism and wider production in Scotland is long overdue, this is a very positive development.
“It’s vital that the new BBC Scotland channel has complete commission and editorial independence, and is provided with the funding needed to match ambition.
“The channel will increase the proportion of the licence fee raised in Scotland that is spent in Scotland in years to come – but sadly will still fall well short of the proportionate share being spent in Northern Ireland and Wales.”
Ms Sturgeon told her Twitter followers there was “lots to welcome” in the announcement, but added that it was “vital” that the new channel was well funded.
She added: “Commitments to new investment and 80 additional jobs for journalists long overdue and very positive. It doesn’t deliver everything that everyone wanted – e.g. no Scottish 6 disappointing – but progress and hopefully sign of new thinking.”
SNP MP John Nicholson, a former BBC journalist, said: “You just have to watch the running order of the main BBC news. Quite often they will lead on an English health story then an English transport story. It will often have three English stories. That’s great for the people of England but it is obviously not good for the people of Scotland on their main channel.”
Shadow Scottish culture secretary Jackson Carlaw said: “This is an extremely welcome announcement. It’s good for jobs, journalism, scrutiny and programming. It also ensures those who still prefer the UK-wide BBC news at 6pm, and other programming on BBC1, get to keep that too.”
Scottish Labour’s culture spokesman Lewis Macdonald said the BBC had “listened to the views of Scots”.