Scottish government plans BBC replacement

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon with the White Paper Scottish first minister Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon present their blueprint for independence

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The Scottish government has proposed that a new Scottish Broadcasting Service will replace BBC Scotland if the nation becomes independent.

According to the government's white paper, published on Tuesday, SBS will offer TV, radio and online services if Scottish voters opt for independence in next September's referendum.

Funded by the public, it would start broadcasting on 1 January 2017, a day after the existing BBC charter expires.

The Scottish government says SBS would be a public service broadcaster, supported by a licence fee that would remain the same as in the rest of the UK, retaining the current exemptions.

Other proposals include:

  • SBS would be founded on the staff and assets of BBC Scotland, where 1300 people currently work
  • In 2017, it would: launch a new TV channel and take on the responsibility for Gaelic channel BBC Alba; start a new radio station alongside taking on responsibility for Radio Scotland and Radio nan Gàidheal; provide online services, including a catch-up player and news website
  • SBS would form a joint venture with the BBC, where the new broadcaster would continue to supply the same level of programming as BBC Scotland, in return for existing BBC services. SBS would have the right to opt-out - as BBC Scotland does already. Therefore shows like Doctor Who and channels such as CBeebies would still be available in Scotland
  • The Scottish government says that it would form a contractual arrangement with BBC Worldwide to secure access to BBC services in Scotland if Westminster does not "share our commitment to publicly funded public service broadcasting"
  • SBS would also explore co-production opportunities with other broadcasters
  • It would "inherit a proportionate share of the BBC's commercial ventures, including BBC Worldwide, BBC Studios and Post Production, and BBC News, and of their associated ongoing profits". According to the white paper, Scotland's population share of these profits ranges from around £13m to £19m per year
  • SBS would receive licence fee revenue from Scotland, which is reported to be around £320m; at least £13m from BBC commercial profits; and around £12m from the Scottish government for Gaelic broadcasting - a combined total of £345m. Therefore, the government says, it would not be necessary to raise revenue by advertising
  • The government claims that independence would mean spending almost double the BBC's expenditure on programming made in Scotland (both for the nation and the whole of the UK), which is estimated to be around £175m for 2016/17. However the latter figure doesn't include infrastructure and UK content made outside Scotland but consumed by the nation's audiences
  • SBS would be independent of government, with an impartial editorial view and creative freedom in production. An expert panel would devise the SBS charter and propose governance arrangements concerning quality and audiences' interests, which will be enshrined in legislation

Scotland's culture and heritage are already under the responsibility of the Holyrood parliament, however the BBC is currently reserved to Westminster.

BBC base in Glasgow's Pacific Quay BBC Scotland is headquartered at Glasgow's Pacific Quay

A BBC Scotland spokesman said the corporation would scrutinise the white paper's contents.

He added: "However, as we have said in the past, we will not enter into any public or private discussions about the future or the shape and nature of our services after the referendum until that referendum has taken place. To do so might compromise perceptions of the impartiality and balance of our coverage."

Scotland could become independent on 24 March 2016 if voters choose to leave the UK in next year's referendum on 18 September.

The Scottish government said its broadcasting policy after independence would also aim to increase opportunities for Scottish production and would oversee a rise in output that reflects life in the nation.

The BBC spent 7.6% of its network TV budget in Scotland during the last financial year, including on shows such as Shetland and Mrs Brown's Boys. But it aims to boost that share to 8.6% by 2016.

According to recent audience research, 48% of people in Scotland said that BBC news and current affairs was good at representing their life - the lowest level of satisfaction when compared to the rest of the UK.

  • The white paper can be read here

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