Scottish Broadcasting commission is step in right direction

The First Minister's decision to set up a Scottish Broadcasting Commission has to be a step in the right direction.

For years, Scots have been brought up to see themselves as an "add-on" on the back of the bigger and more dominant partner in the union that created the United Kingdom.

  • When we were one of the only nations in the world without a legislature to control our separate Scots Legal System, our laws were usually "add-ons" on the back of English Law.
  • Even our Secretary of State was an "add-on" to the cabinet in Whitehall.
  • There was (and still is) no escape when we turn on our televisions. The Scottish News is an "add-on" to the news presented from London.
  • We have been taught that our lowland language - Scots - is an "add-on" to English, whereas it was a totally separate language that has evolved closer and closer to English as the increasingly dominant language of the world.

It is perhaps no surprise - given that background - that the well balanced Scotsman is said to be one who has a "chip on both shoulders"!

Even with the growth of the internet, television and radio remain some of the most powerful influencers in our everyday lives. It is only right, therefore, that Scotland, as a nation, should demand fair representation.

If the first B in BBC really is "British", then, by definition, the corporation
must provide an equitable service to the northern kingdom in this United Kingdom.

  • Sourcing something like 2% of its programmes from Scotland is not equitable.
  • Feeding us a diet of news biased towards education systems, health services (and a multitude of other English domestic matters which are of no relevance to Scotland) is not equitable.

You think that is an extreme comment?

Well, what do you think the reaction in England would be if 97 or 98% of their programmes came from Scotland and if the English news was an afterthought added on to the news from Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen!

Yeah, put it that way and you realise the absurdity of the current situation.

And, of course, we perhaps feel it more acutely in the North and North-east of Scotland where our own local programme making, particularly since the merging of Grampian TV and stv seems to be a very pale shadow of its former glory. Grampian TV used to produce programmes here that were shown round the world (I know, having switched on televisions in various corners of the globe in the past to see weel-kent faces on the small screen).

For all these reasons, Alex Salmond is right to take action.

But, In its findings, the Scottish Broadcasting Commission must take into account the need for a good regional spread of broadcasting and programme-making opportunities within Scotland.

Alex Salmond is also right to address the way that our news content has been eroding. Northsound Radio used to do a 10-minute bulletin in the mornings and a two-hour drivetime news-and-music evening programme. At least Stv North still have their
North Tonight... but for how long? Some day the bean counters will probably decide to give us a five-minute opt-out from Scotland Today.

His Scottish Broadcasting Commission seems a good start and its aim will be to find a strategic way forward. The Commission is to be chaired by Blair Jenkins, formerly head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland and director of broadcasting at Scottish Television.

Announcing the new commission the First Minister said: "Broadcasting has a crucial and central role in our democracy, but also in obtaining the full cultural and economic benefits of our creative industries. That's why my government supports the devolution of broadcasting powers to the Scottish Parliament.

"We see the policy as a means to an end, not just as an end in itself. We want to ensure the principle of editorial and creative control being exercised in Scotland on behalf of Scottish audiences. And we want to create thriving production businesses taking Scottish talent onto an international stage.

"We want proper public service broadcasting for this exciting and energised nation. That includes television news and current affairs, which seems to have been shrinking to an alarming degree in Scotland if the industry regulator, Ofcom, is to be believed.

"I will be speaking to the BBC and other television networks about what we can do to ensure that they are getting the right kind of talent and ideas from Scotland, so they can start investing the right amounts of money in Scottish drama, entertainment and documentaries.

"If we are going to participate fully in the future of broadcasting we need to put in place what software designers have called the 'architecture of participation'. That will mean our institutional structures and priorities may have to change.

"If we have a national determination to encourage our creative talent, then we can build television services and production businesses which are genuinely world class. We need to galvanise not just our broadcasters, but also our schools and universities, our arts companies, our writers and producers, and our emerging talent."
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