BBC optimistic about referendum and games coverage

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John Boothman, the head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland, told the Education and Culture Committee he was "very, very very optimistic" about how the organisation would cover the Commonwealth Games 2014 and the independence referendum, on 22 January 2012.

Mr Boothman, Ken MacQuarrie, the director of BBC Scotland, and his colleague Bruce Malcolm, head of Commonwealth Games 2014 at the organisation, were appearing before the committee to discuss coverage of the forthcoming major events in light of job losses and financial constraints as part of Delivering Quality First (DQF).

On 30 October 2012, representatives from the NUJ and BECTU expressed concerns about the cuts with the forthcoming referendum and games requiring more, not less staff.

The unions also expressed concerns about staff morale being at "an all time low" and maintaining quality with reducing staffing levels.

Mr Boothman told the committee: "The picture presented by the unions at the last meeting for me was not a true picture of what's happening.

"I'm very, very, very optimistic, going forward, of how we can cover the Commonwealth Games and the referendum and all those other things that are happening in 2014."

He went on to say: "Yes, things are not without their challenges and their difficulties, but we think going forward we are going to produce not just a first class service to our audiences in Scotland, but something we can be very proud of across the UK."

Mr Boothman was responding to concerns expressed by committee convener Stewart Maxwell that cuts to BBC Scotland would lead to "a situation where its packages from the network and reactive journalism rather than proactive journalism".

Earlier, the SNP MSP had pressed Mr MacQuarrie, the director of BBC Scotland, on staff morale in news and current affairs quoting statistics from a BBC staff survey in 2010.

Mr Maxwell said that "in response to the question 'senior leaders in my division behave in a way that is consistent with the BBC values', the BBC average was 'yes' 45%, BBC Scotland News was 17%".

He asked the BBC Scotland director whether he was shocked by that figure and what had been done to respond to "what in my view is an appalling figure".

Mr MacQuarrie said: "We obviously take seriously any staff survey, any data we have about how are staff are feeling and we have a very clear action plan which involves dialogue, working with staff to ensure the various fora for their concerns are there."

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