TV shows are being mislabelled as Scottish to meet quotas, MSPs told

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Television productions are being mislabelled as Scottish in order to meet broadcasting quotas, MSPs have heard.

Holyrood’s Culture Committee was told of instances of “brass plating” by production companies attempting to meet the criteria for “out of London” programming.

Holyrood's Culture Committee was told of instances of 'brass plating' by production companies attempting to meet the criteria for 'out of London' programming. Picture: Scottish Parliament

Holyrood's Culture Committee was told of instances of 'brass plating' by production companies attempting to meet the criteria for 'out of London' programming. Picture: Scottish Parliament

The committee heard evidence that a more robust system was needed to ensure the requirements were not seen as a “box-ticking” exercise.

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David Smith, national representative for Scotland at trade association Pact, said Ofcom should be more proactive in auditing information about Scottish productions.

He said: “An element of spot checking, a bit more detail required on that form, an undertaking by the production company and the broadcaster that it is legal, decent, honest and true, that this is authentic, that they have met the spirit as well as the letter of the rules, and then Ofcom’s ability to check on that.

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David Smith, national representative for Scotland at trade association Pact, said Ofcom should be more proactive in auditing information about Scottish productions.

He said: “An element of spot checking, a bit more detail required on that form, an undertaking by the production company and the broadcaster that it is legal, decent, honest and true, that this is authentic, that they have met the spirit as well as the letter of the rules, and then Ofcom’s ability to check on that.

“Ofcom is not a proactive system, it is a reactive system. If you raise a complaint Ofcom investigates. Maybe that has to change.”

SNP MSP Stuart McMillan said: “There are increasing opportunities ... but clearly there are still some practices that are taking place that seem to have an adverse effect.

“If there is a process that’s taking place of this kind of brass plating or just trying to find an address, then that’s not good enough. That’s not actually helping people in Scotland get on in this particular sector.”

Responding to the concerns, Bruce Malcolm, head of service development at BBC Scotland, said broadcasters relied on the evidence provided to them by production companies.

He said: “If these are not being filled in correctly or dishonestly, then that’s another issue entirely that we would take very seriously if we found that out.

“We’re happy at the level of granularity that we see. If there’s dishonesty on behalf of production companies, that’s a different matter.”

An Ofcom spokesman: “It’s vitally important that TV production and investment is spread across the UK, including in Scotland.

“Public service broadcasters must consider our guidance and have to report accurately on how they have met their quota obligations.

“We are engaging with industry and Holyrood to assess how the guidance is being applied in practice and whether changes are required. We will outline next steps very shortly.”