Here is the news – most people want a 'Scottish Six'

PUBLIC support for a "Scottish Six" is growing, with a small majority of Scots backing a new-look television news programme, according to a new report.

Some 53 per cent of Scots are now in favour of replacing the Six O'Clock News and Reporting Scotland with a programme that mixes Scottish news with UK and international reports, says the Scottish Broadcasting Commission (SBC).

That compares with a BBC study five years ago that found a majority of Scots wished to retain the existing format.

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The new survey, part of the SBC's investigation into broadcasting, also found news coverage was mainly reactive, event-driven and, for some, too obsessed with crime and sport. Some 48 per cent said they were satisfied with news coverage, while 36 per cent said they were dissatisfied.

Among the complaints raised was that there was a lack of depth in news coverage and that more analytical programmes, such as Newsnight Scotland and STV's Politics Now, were marginalised by late-night scheduling and a lack of resources.

The SBC's interim report was based on evidence gathered from academics, political parties, broadcasters and commentators, as well as through a series of public events across Scotland.

It also showed 54 per cent of viewers were confused about whether items in the UK news were applicable to Scotland.

Blair Jenkins, who chairs the commission, said: "It was felt that an all too narrow and restrictive perspective was offered through news and current affairs, and this needs to be extended beyond the voices of the politicians and government spokespeople and beyond the routine diet of reactive crime and sports stories."

The question of a "Scottish Six" has twice before been examined by the BBC, in 1998 and in 2003, and on both occasions the corporation decided to maintain the current provision.

However, the issue is being re-examined as part of a review of the BBC's network news and factual coverage across the four nations by Professor Anthony King of Essex University.

Mr Jenkins also said he had concerns that the BBC had revised its delivery date at which point 9 per cent of network programming will come from Scotland, from 2012 to 2016. He said: "That is an awful long time ."

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A spokesman for BBC Scotland said: "We announced last summer that deliveries from BBC Scotland should grow to at least its proportion of the UK population by 2012, and that this should be regarded as a floor rather than any kind of ceiling.

"This remains our goal, using the BBC reporting basis which was in use at that time. What was announced this week means we expect to increase our output even more and have been asked to meet that more stretching goal by 2016."

Beating language barrier

BBC Scotland's Gaelic current affairs programme, Erpa, was among the most highly praised programmes, even among those who do not speak the language.

While there are some 60,000 Gaelic speakers in Scotland, as many as 190,000 watch the programme, which carries reports from across Europe, such as a recent one on renewable energy in Portugal.

Blair Jenkins, the SBC chairman, said: "It was intriguing to note that, without fail, at every one of our public events, BBC Two Scotland's Erpa was raised, unsolicited and by non-Gaelic speakers, as an example of a positive, well-respected programme."

Hedda MacLeod, Erpa's producer, said: "We're delighted that the commission received so many unsolicited comments of appreciation."


NOW that the three interim reports have been published, the Scottish Broadcasting Commission will embark on a final round of interviews with the likes of the BBC, Ofcom, and Scottish Television to clarify points raised.

Blair Jenkins and his team will then prepare a final report containing recommendations to the First Minister and the Scottish Government about how best to drive the industry forward within the scope of the parliament's powers.

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They will also examine issues where other organisations have responsibility and encourage action to address the issues.

The final report will be released in September.