NICOLA Sturgeon’s government yesterday accused the BBC of sexist programming in a hard-hitting document which also stepped up its attacks on the Corporation’s coverage of Scottish politics.
The Scottish Government claimed the treatment of women on television was unacceptable in a policy paper on the BBC Charter Renewal.
The paper said the broadcaster had to work “harder and smarter” to achieve a 50:50 gender balance on screen and expressed concern at the number of sexist incidents broadcast on prime time television.
Also under attack was the BBC Scotland’s treatment of Scottish news, with the paper arguing that coverage following the independence referendum was “insufficient in both scope, scale and quality of output with audience satisfaction figures at little more than 50 per cent”.
The SNP has long argued that there should be a Scottish Six news programme, with current affairs covered from a Scottish dimension.
The document said: “A more comprehensive approach to news with a greater voice for Scottish journalists on Scottish issues in the UK network, as well as on national and international stories for the Scottish network, cannot now be resisted.”
People, in all their diversity, have a right to be seen and to be heard on the television and the radioGOVERNMENT REPORT
During the independence referendum campaign the BBC came under sustained fire from senior SNP figures, including Alex Salmond, who claimed the Corporation was biased against Scottish independence. The BBC is duty bound to be politically neutral and has consistently denied the SNP’s claims, which have also been dismissed by opposition parties as paranoia.
The document was released ahead of the publication of the BBC Charter, which forms the constitutional basis for the public-sector broadcaster.
On the issue of sexism, the Scottish Government referred to a recent Channel 4 survey of all the UK’s main channels. It found that men are twice as likely to appear on television as women and as many as five sexist incidents an hour are broadcast during prime time.
The document said: “Sexism, primarily at women’s expense, was most commonly found in comedy, but the worst area for gender balance overall was sport with just 2 per cent of presenters, pundits or guests being women.
“This is not acceptable. The BBC has a pivotal role to play in delivering meaningful social and cultural outcomes for the communities that pay their licence fees across the UK and we expect the BBC to do more.
“People, in all their diversity, have a right to be seen and to be heard on the television and the radio, and to be seen and heard in a way that doesn‘t diminish them.
“The Scottish Government believes that the BBC needs to work harder and smarter to achieving 50-50 when it comes to gender equality on our screens and airwaves. Women, in all their diversity, need to be seen and heard in a way that accurately and meaningfully reflects their lives.”
The document also called for the introduction of a service licence to ensure a fairer share of the licence fee that is raised in Scotland is invested north of the Border.
It said BBC Scotland should have greater control over its budget and be given meaningful commissioning power, and be held to account by a new Scottish Board. It added that BBC Scotland should be empowered to deliver more relevant editorial content for Scottish audiences with Ofcom appointed as the external, independent regulator.
According to the Scottish Government, the BBC Studios model had to be managed carefully to ensure growth of Scotland’s creative industries.
It also recommended more UK government funding of Gaelic programming.
Last night Scottish Labour culture spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “The BBC Charter will set the tone for public service broadcasting in Scotland and across the UK for years to come. It is important that the BBC makes a strong commitment to stimulating production for TV and supporting jobs and skills in Scotland, so that more network output reflects and builds on Scotland’s already outstanding creative sector.
“It is equally important that government respects the independence of the BBC.”
A BBC spokesman said: “We’ve set out a clear commitment to Scotland including better portraying and representing Scotland to Scottish audiences and those across the UK, reviewing our news offer and allocating additional funding to improve dedicated services in the nations.
“We also launched our diversity strategy earlier this year which set challenging new targets, including women to fill 50 per cent of roles on-screen and on-air across all genres from drama to news by 2020.
“We look forward to the government publishing the draft Charter.”