BBC Scotland reveal plans for flagship Scottish news programme

The BBC Scotland HQ in Pacific Quay, Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
The BBC Scotland HQ in Pacific Quay, Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
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BBC Scotland chiefs have pledged that its new nightly news programme will be less formal and more conversational than traditional programmes - and say it will depict the world “through Scottish eyes.”

Martin Geissler and Rebecca Curran, the presenters of The Nine, will host part of the hour-long show from sofas in an open-plan part of Pacific Quay in Glasgow when the show launches in February.

Audiences have been promised that the hour-long show, which has been backed by a £7 million budget, will be firmly rooted in Scotland, but will also have a “global ambition.”

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Due to go out from 9-10pm from Monday-Friday, it will draw on big-name BBC correspondents from around the world, but will send reporters outwith Scotland to provide bespoke coverage for viewers north of the border. BBC Scotland says 80 new journalism jobs have been created to help launch the new channel, which will start broadcasting on 24 February.

Hayley Valentine, editor of The Nine, said: “We’re aiming to show the world through Scottish eyes. We’ll have the needs of a Scottish audience at the heart of everything we do. That doesn’t mean all stories will have a Scottish element. Big international and UK-wide stories resonate with Scottish audiences.

“It’s very much a programme, rather than a bulletin. An hour feels like a real luxury. It’ll allow us to make slightly longer films, let interviews breathe and also have live guests on the programme.

“We’re aiming to bring audiences the best of the BBC. You’ll see the best international and UK-wide correspondents alongside the best of what we already have in Pacific Quay and around the country, as well as the new faces we’re bringing in. We want to bring our audiences something else. We hope to get a reputation for breaking stories and doing original pieces that you won’t see elsewhere.

“We recognise some audiences might think the existing offer from the BBC is quite formal and hasn’t really changed in a long time, especially younger audiences who maybe don’t see it being for them.

“We aim to be more informal and conversational and inclusive. We want to make people feel it’s something that’s talking to them. Language is really important to us - we’ll make sure we don’t use lots of jargon that puts audiences off. We hope that, wherever you are and whatever your experiences, there might be opportunities to see yourself or somebody like you on the news.”

Geissler, a former STV, Sky News and ITN, reporter, said: “It will look different to and slicker than any other television news programme in Britain at any level. We know we’ve got to earn an audience.

“We’ve got to convince people to break a habit. We’ve got to better, sharper, smarter and maybe spikier. It’s definitely got to have a different identity. That’s what we’re all about.”

Gary Smith, head of news and current affairs, added: “The idea of the new channel is to increase our capacity to give viewers in Scotland more programmes in which they see their country and lives reflected back to them. Our news programme has the same ambition.

“The new programme will be very different in what we do in Reporting in Scotland in terms of its agenda, as we will be covering the world and the UK, as well as Scotland, and it will be different in the way we tell some stories.”

Media commentator Eamonn O’Neill, associate professor in journalism at Edinburgh Napier University, said: “The Nine has certainly got a good budget and good talent involved. The BBC’s ambitions for it are laudable and are definitely achievable.

“Good Morning Scotland already does this kind of stuff at the weekend. There’s an engine there at Pacific Quay, but we’ll have to wait to see if it can translate into television. They should be able to get it right given the amount of time and effort that’s gone into it.

“It will need time to bed in, but we’ll need to wait and see if it is innovative, relevant and edgy in the way that Channel 4 News is.”

Writer and broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove said: “The Nine needs to be ambitious about the news agenda and be less constrained by what London newsrooms are pursuing unless there is a very clear benefit to Scottish viewers. I’d also be more interested in arts and culture content where there is a demonstrable story worthy of the news agenda.”