Independent Scotland 'to pay to receive BBC services' - says former director general Lord Birt

Lord Birt, former director general of the BBC, has claimed that an independent Scotland would lose access to the public broadcaster’s TV and radio programming, if it does not pay for it “one way or another”.

Scottish BBC services would allegedly be cut back

If Scotland votes yes in less than a month’s time, Birt told the Guardian that the broadcaster would immediately see a 10 per cent cut in license payer funding.

He added that this would further burden the service on top of the 15 per cent cut already put in place by the UK government.

Additionally, the independent peer said he doubts the BBC would work closely with the newly launched SBC, calling an SNP proposed program swapping scheme a “bold assentation”.

The financially depleted BBC would instead sell its content to the highest bidder, he said.

Writing on Tuesday for the Guardian, Lord Birt said: “The BBC, like other national institutions, would lose 10 per cent of its income. The recent new obligations placed on the BBC - to fund World Service, S4C and other activities from the license fee - will in short order take a further 15 per cent out of the pot used for funding television, radio and online services.

“If Scotland became independent, the BBC as we know it would effectively lose a quarter of its funding. Fundamental changes to BBC services would be unavoidable.”

The former BBC head claimed that Scotland’s new public broadcaster, the SBS, would only have a modest budget, about a tenth of the BBC’s, meaning the firm would be unable to splash the cash for quality programming: “As in other countries that have a population of around five million, the SBS will tailor its programmes and services to its modest means.”

Birt added: “Finally, as for the availability in Scotland of the BBC’s continuing services, there will be some transmission spillover at the border, and BBC channels and services will certainly be accessible more widely in Scotland, but encrypted and available only on commercial terms.

“One way or another, after independence, Scottish viewers would have to pay to receive BBC services.”

Birt's comments come two months after MP Danny Alexander said the UK government would consider sharing BBC resources, such as the National Lottery, with an independent Scotland.

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