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Reporting ourselves

Pauline McLean | 11:29 UK time, Saturday, 31 May 2008

The latest report from the Scottish Broadcasting Commission.

"Anyone know what this is about?" asked the man from the Scotsman.

It's the sort of question we all ask at the start of news conferences but a bizarre one when, in fact, the answer was us.

Friday's report from the Scottish Broadcasting Commission - the third and final one to be published - was about us, the people who make the news.

It's a disconcerting experience - more so, since only a handful of journalists seemed to want to hear the results of the Commission's latest foray into the state of the home-grown industry.

The headlines? That TV was the main source of news for most of the people surveyed, with newspapers, radio and online lagging behind.

Of course, like all surveys, it depends on who you ask and it'll be interesting to compare this report's findings with the survey commissioned by the BBC Trust from Professor Anthony King.

Can online news - regarded by many as the great hope for the industry - really be the main source of news for a paltry 13-18 per cent of respondents?

The figures may give hope to TV news - in Scottish news terms, a two horse race between BBC Scotland and STV - but there are concerns.

Viewers don't like everything they see - in particular they find Scottish news obsessed with crime and sport.

There are also concerns about the reporting of UK-wide issues in post-devolution Scotland.

Equally, TV news editors dumb-down at their peril. These viewers are discerning. They want more analysis, not less.

Without prompting, programmes such as Newsnight Scotland and Eorpa, were cited as examples of the sort of programming they wanted to see more of.

In the case of Eorpa, not for its Gaelic content, but as a rare programme which places Scotland in a European context.

They have to prove they're not just a talking shop for those who make TV, or indeed watch it.

The biggest issue for viewers though was choice. They wanted more, not less.

Along the Scottish Border, they were particularly concerned about plans for a merger between Border TV and Tyne Tees - an issue currently being reviewed by ITV and Ofcom.

SMG plc has its own problems and says without money to plug a funding gap, their ability to compete with the BBC in news and current affairs is under threat.

It's already asking the Broadcasting Commission to lobby for guaranteed public funding for the services on its two Scottish licences.

So the Scottish Broadcasting Commission has work to do - and not just in summarising its recommendations for the first minister, who commissioned it in the first place.

Already there are some signs that its evidence is being listened to.

After an earlier report which suggested programme makers were mislabelling programmes, to up the quota of work produced in the regions, this week the BBC Trust announced it would no longer label network productions as Scottish or Welsh, but use the Ofcom definition "outside London".


  • Comment number 1.

    I always used to think that Scottish local news was dull and boring in its presenting style. However, having lived in the States for a few years local news is just the same here. They are obsessed with crime and sport. Its very rare you get a story outside your immediate county and as for national news forget it.
    I have relied heavily on the internet for my news from home and I cant see that being any different when I come back home this Summer. I think I will always use the net for more in depth reading of various stories.
    As for Scottish news covering UK stories I would very much hope this will continue. I would hate it if we went down the same path as the US. There is a big world out there and it would be very narrow minded to only cover local news.

  • Comment number 2.

    "Without prompting, programmes such as Newsnight Scotland and Eorpa, were cited as examples of the sort of programming they wanted to see more of."


    Pauline, you well know that Newsnicht needs a dedicated time slot, not hang about waiting for Paxo and chums to drawl on before finally deciding to hand over the opt out at 23.00-1-2-3-4-5 only for Brewer or Campbell to then speed shout at interviewees for hasty soundbites.

    Give us a Newsnicht with a budget somewhere approaching Eorpa's clothing allowance and it might be a programme to enjoy.

    Ps Say hi to Craig....

  • Comment number 3.

    In my opinion Europa is the type of programme that BBC Scotland should be producing for us instead of the nonsence being tagged onto the end of the 6 oclock news. Radio Scotland have drive time which is a mix of regional ,national,UK and international news and comment why cant we have the same on the TV ? more and more folk are using the internet to get a more balanced viewpoint of news for example certain articles are not carried in Scottish editions of newspapers but are carried in English ones by using the internet you get the overall picture.

  • Comment number 4.

    Scotland is in an untidy state, and the name of that state is the United Kingdom. It is lopsided and muddled. Since the devolution settlement that may not have much longer to go before it is replaced by something else, this condition has grown worse. The disorderly complexity of our constitutional arrangements makes it difficult for public affairs to be reported with the degree of clarity and brevity that is required. For the sake of brevity clarity in the exposition of relatively complex matters is habitually sacrificed.

    What to do about it? No doubt the Scottish Broadcasting Commission will tell us in due course. In the meantime I would hazard a guess that it will be forced to the conclusion that for a Scottish audience UK affairs need to be reported from Scotland, as it appears to be in the nature of England-based broadcasters to be vague about the division of responsibilities between UK and Scottish authorities and about the implications of the separate Scottish legal jurisdiction, etc., etc.

    Of course, we all want to know about the wider world, but in Scotland we have a particular perspective, which, however else one may care to describe it, is not English. Therefore, the Scottish TV audience will not be satisfied until our news of the UK and further afield is brought to us from Scotland. But we all know this already, do we not?


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