Independence and Commonwealth fears over BBC cuts

BBC Scotland HQ. Picture: Donald MacLeod
BBC Scotland HQ. Picture: Donald MacLeod
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Concerns have been raised by a Holyrood committee about the BBC’s ability to cover major events such as the independence referendum and Commonwealth Games.

The Culture Committee is “far from reassured” that the broadcaster can produce in-depth quality coverage because of planned cuts in budgets and staffing, and called on it to provide regular updates.

MSPs outlined their concerns in a report detailing the findings of evidence sessions with senior BBC executives and trade union officials.

BBC Scotland has said it must find “savings” of £16.1 million by the end of 2016-17, equating to a cut of 100-120 posts.

The committee report notes “clear disagreement” between BBC Scotland management and trade unions about both the morale of staff and levels of absence.


The committee also expressed disappointment at the BBC’s failure to provide information requested by MSPs and “considerable regret” that invitations to give evidence were initially declined.

“While it is not our role to arbitrate on industrial relations at BBC Scotland, we do expect all figures provided to us to be accurate,” the report stated.

“We are concerned that there are discrepancies. We regret we still await the staffing levels requested from BBC Scotland.

“There is nothing we can do to substantiate claims by either party other than to continue to monitor effects on programming output and quality. We would be extremely concerned if anyone has deliberately set out to mislead a parliamentary committee.”

The report also stated: “We note that there is disagreement between management and unions on the issue of staff morale and absence levels. We are disappointed that BBC Scotland has not provided information on the staff survey to the Parliament.”

Committee convener Stewart Maxwell said: “It is of major concern that there does not seem to be a consensus about the scale and impact of these cuts, and we remain far from reassured on the BBC’s ability to deliver in-depth coverage at a quality we would expect.


“Such is the concern that staffing cuts may impede the broadcaster’s ability to deliver, that the committee will be seeking regular updates from BBC Scotland every six months. The first of these updates is expected in October 2013.”

A BBC spokesman said: “The BBC is totally committed to covering both the Commonwealth Games and the independence referendum as part of our overall coverage.

“For the Commonwealth Games, we have said we will build on the BBC’s successful coverage of the Olympics and will provide 15 separate streams beamed from 17 locations around Scotland, utilising all the expertise and experience gained last year.

“For the referendum, we are already bringing comprehensive impartial coverage to audiences in Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world, and that will continue as we head towards voting day next year.”