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BBC Scotland bosses face Holyrood ire

By His Nibs

February 1, 2012 | 3 min read

In the latest entry by The Drum's anonymous blogger, revealing news and observations Scotland's media and business communities wouldn't want you to hear, His Nibs explains why Beeb bosses north of the Border are facing renewed political pressure.

The Scottish Government are far from impressed by the goings-on at BBC Scotland.

John Boothman, head of news and current affairs was given a right roasting by Holyrood’s Education and Lifelong Learning Committee recently. Now the word is his boss, Ken MacQuarrie, could be next in the firing line.

The Committee had invited some of the great and the good of Scottish broadcasting to answer questions and make statements about the provision of news and current affairs. Also on the agenda was the amount of airtime devoted to the educational aspects of broadcasting. A minimum provision is required under the terms of the licence fee, which had been negotiated through Ofcom.

These are issues known to be close to Alex Salmond’s heart so there were no notable absences sat round the table.

John Boothman was joined by head of STV News Gordon MacMillan, Channel 4 boss Stuart Cosgrove, Iain MacWhirter of The Sunday Herald and the NUJ’s Paul Holleran.

With so much knowledge and insight available in the room one would have thought everybody’s opinion would be sought in roughly equal proportions. Not so. Most of the questions were directed at Boothman while the others got off relatively Scot-free.

In what appeared to be an attempt to systematically dismantle his arguments the committee persistently came back to one central point: how can BBC Scotland maintain its so far excellent level of quality while losing so many jobs? His responses were far from convincing.

The scrapping of Radio Scotland’s Newsweek and Scotland at Ten also provoked some ire. The general feeling was that under the circumstances listeners would expect greater political debate in Scotland, not a reduction.

And as Boothman retreated it became apparent that MacQuarrie may also be summoned to explain himself.

There were murmurings in the room that he may not be fighting Scotland’s corner strongly enough. Apparently, budget cuts for the BBC in Northern Ireland and Wales were proportionately lower. And in Holyrood’s corridors of power they want to find out why.

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