Ofcom green-light new BBC Scotland channel

BBC Scotland plan to launch a new channel. Picture: John Devlin
BBC Scotland plan to launch a new channel. Picture: John Devlin
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Plans for a new BBC Scotland channel have been given the provisional go-ahead by regulators.

BBC Scotland’s new television channel has been given the provisional green light to start broadcasting.

Regulator Ofcom had been considering if the new channel “would justify any potential adverse effects on fair and effective competition”.

However, following a “careful review”, it has announced a provisional decision “that the BBC may proceed with the launch of the new channel”. Around 80 journalists are being hired for the channel, which is expected to start broadcasting in this autumn.

Announced in February 2017, the new venture will have a budget of more than £32 million a year.

A a new flagship hour-long news bulletin will cover international, UK and Scottish stories “from a Scottish perspective”.

The regulator will make a final decision on the launch of the new channel – which will air between 7pm and midnight every day – by July.

Steve Carson, head of multi- channel commissioning for BBC Scotland, said: “We’re planning a channel for modern Scotland, a home for compelling, quality content that appeals to and reflects the diversity of Scottish audiences. It’ll enable viewers to see more of their lives, stories and interests on screen as well as offering the chance to watch great content from elsewhere.

“A lot of exciting ideas have been pitched from across the creative sector. We’ve already ‘greenlit’ some projects and are piloting others. There will be investment in new drama, comedy and factual programmes, bringing fresh talent and a range of perspectives to Scotland’s screens.”

There has been a mixed response from politicians to the new channel amid claims its budget is not big enough.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “We welcome the progress being made with the proposed new channel. It’s an opportunity to drive further growth in our screen sector, but concerns remain about funding being insufficient.”

Scottish Greens culture spokesman Ross Greer said: “While it’s great that the new channel has been given the green light, the BBC needs to properly invest in Scottish-based commissioning and production to make it a success. Far too often we hear from programme-makers that big decisions are still made in London. Those same industry experts have expressed major concern at the limited budget for the new channel, given the scale of content to be created.”

Claire Baker, Scottish Labour’s culture spokeswoman, said: “The BBC must continue to ensure that licence fee payers are getting the best value for their money and that wider sector in Scotland can benefit from the new opportunities this will bring.”