What does the future hold for broadcasting in Scotland?

Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
Picture: Craig Williamson/SNS
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It has been a busy few weeks for observers of the broadcasting industry in Scotland. STV announced a restructure of its news operation, with more than 50 jobs at risk, while BBC Scotland revealed that its new channel will not launch until February next year.

Then there was the announcement that Glasgow was among 13 cities and regions selected to participate in the second stage of the pitch process for Channel 4’s new national HQ and creative hub.

Scotland’s TV production sector, which makes a variety of well-known shows, is already expected to grow in the coming years. The addition of a new channel base would be a further shot in the arm.

BBC Scotland is currently hiring journalists and researchers for its planned hour-long news show which will be the cornerstone of the channel launching next year.

But the optimistic mood does not stretch to STV’s headquarters on the banks of the Clyde.

Staff this week reaffirmed their intention to ballot for industrial action after rejecting a request from bosses at the broadcaster to delay the process for two weeks.

The action follows the announcement the loss-making STV2 channel will close. Simon Pitts, who took charge at the station last year, claimed it would ensure STV remained the best news service in Scotland while delivering significant cost savings.

READ MORE: Why STV2 failed and what it means for broadcasting in Scotland

But one STV staffer, who asked not to be named, said the restructure could negatively impact on the station’s news output.

“It’s been said more reporters will film and then edit their own interviews with no support on the ground,” they said. “It’s a model that’s being used already on ITV’s regional networks.

“The thinking seems to be, take money off news and invest it into productions.

“At a time when our competitors are scaling up, we are cutting back. What kind of message does that send?”

Veteran broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove, who is leading Glasgow’s Channel 4 bid, told The Scotsman the city’s creative sector was capable of responding to challenges such as the STV restructure.

“Glasgow has many strengths, not least a phenomenal pipeline of talent,” he said. “Over 160,000 students in a city with the biggest independent production sector outside London. We can respond to creative challenges.

“The job losses at STV are regrettable, but have no significant impact on the Channel 4 bid. STV was not a substantial supplier of content to Channel 4 by comparison with companies like Raise the Roof, Firecrest and Mentorn.

“STV aims to expand its digital production. That may in time strengthen a sector which is already burgeoning. Time will tell.”

An STV spokeswoman told The Scotsman its three-year growth plan set out “a positive vision” for its future.

“By focussing on areas of growth we will reassert the company as an independent creative force in Scotland and beyond,” she said.

“As a commercial public service broadcaster we have had to make some difficult choices in our strategic plan. Our decision to close STV2 was not an easy one and is reflective of the economics of local television. We will redirect this investment and creativity into new programming for STV and the STV Player to offer more choice for Scottish viewers as well as reaching new audiences.

“The TV production sector in Scotland is expected to grow considerably in the three years. STV Productions is in prime position to address the demand for new programming from the nations and regions.”