Scottish government pushes for improved BBC Scotland charter deal, as the broadcaster takes ‘major step’ towards decentralising

Scottish government pushes for improved BBC Scotland charter deal

Written by Rebecca Stewart & Stephen Lepitak

The Scottish government has said that it is continuing to push for a “better” deal for BBC Scotland following the UK government’s BBC charter.

Speaking at an event for the Creative Industries Federation in Edinburgh last month, Fiona Hyslop, Scotland's secretary for culture, tourism and external affairs, confirmed that Scottish minsters were “pressing” for a more favourable outcome for Scotland.

She has since told The Drum that the Scottish government believes “real and sustainable change will only come when the BBC transfers decision making powers to Scotland.”

“That is why were are pressing for a decentralised BBC with a fairer share of licence fee raised in Scotland, spent in Scotland,” she added.

When the BBC’s Royal Charter was unveiled earlier this year by then-UK culture secretary John Whittingdale, the corporation outlined a series of changes designed to improve the way it represents Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

These plans included each nation being represented on the new BBC’s new unitary board, which is replacing the BBC trust. The committee will govern the broadcaster’s day-to-day matters and will have between 12 and 14 members, including the chair, deputy chair, and four others will be selected by the UK government to represent the nations and regions. The broadcaster also said it would devolve further descision-making powers to each nation, and make Scotland a hub for factual TV production.

The Scottish government, however, is pressing for a further shakedown, with Hyslop asserting: “The BBC in Scotland must change and must better reflect the complexity of our lives.

"We will continue to push for a BBC that better represents the people of Scotland, such as improved commissioning practices to support our world-class creative industries, and adopting appropriate governance and accountability structures.”

On the subject of the unitary board, she said that the Charter must be “explicit,” about the need a national committee for Scotland to ensure commissioning, editorial and funding decisions that impact on Scottish programming are in the country, and that “Scotland’s interests are fully and properly represented.”

In response, a BBC spokesperson said: "We’ve said we want to improve the way the BBC represents and reflects Scotland – including taking a major step in decentralising oversight of our dedicated services for the Nations.

"As part of this, we’ve proposed having a committee of the BBC’s new Board in each of the devolved Nations to oversee the services provided for those audiences," the added.

A recent report from the BBC Trust indicated that viewers tend to have a "lower" opinion of the broadcaster. It found that the overall opinion of BBC TV news in the country was 7.2 out of 10 at the end of 2015, having barely shifted since the Scottish independence referendum.

As a solution to better appear to audiences, BBC Scotland hinted at the start of 2016 that it had tentative plans to introduce a 'Scottish Six' show - an early evening news bulletin dedicated to covering events north of the border - but journalists revolted against the project.

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