Nicola Sturgeon raises concerns over new BBC Scotland channel

The First Minister was speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
The First Minister was speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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Nicola Sturgeon has raised concerns that the new BBC Scotland channel does not have enough money as she called on the Corporation to work harder to close the gender gap.

The First Minister suggested the channel would need more than its £30 million budget and asked why it would not be broadcast in high definition.

In a keynote address to the Television Festival, Ms Sturgeon said the BBC must accelerate its efforts to close the gender gap and said more had to be done to attract ethnic minorities into the media.

Appearing alongside Kirsty Wark, Ms Sturgeon said the new Scottish channel was a step in the right direction when it came to the BBC serving the devolved nations.

But she added: “The new proposed BBC channel has a budget of £30 million and I think there are really legitimate questions about whether that will be sufficient. You think back to the broadcasting commission a decade ago at that time it proposed an annual budget of £75 million for a new network in Scotland. The fact that new channel will be broadcast in standard definition could also limit its appeal.

“For drama increasingly these days, viewers expect high definition to be available. At the very least these issues must be kept under review.

She also claimed Scottish viewers were being “short-changed”

“At present 72 per cent of the licence fee raised in Scotland will be spent in Scotland. In Wales and Northern Ireland it is 98 per cent. So even with the BBC’s new commitments we won’t have parity with those countries,” she said.

Following the recent disclosures of BBC stars salaries which revealed that men were far better paid than women at the top of the organisation, Ms Sturgeon called for the pledge to close the gap by 2020 to be enacted sooner.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I do think the BBC should accelerate here. The equal pay act passed in the year I was born, which, as you probably know, was not yesterday. These issues have frankly been going on under the radar for too long, well, they are not under the radar any more and it’s time to up the progress.”

She also expressed dismay at the lack of people from a minority background.

“Just one of the best 25 paid stars was from a black or minority ethnic background,” she said. “That of course was George Alagiah. Last month Lenny Henry highlighted research from the Directors’ Association showing no talk shows, period dramas, game shows, sketch shows, celebrity TV shows or children’s entertainers shows had producers who were black or ethnic minority backgrounds. He pointed out that although Ofcom now planned to ask the BBC to monitor its racial diversity on screen, the plans for monitoring don’t apply to those behind the camera.

“These are things that in my view are not acceptable any more.”