Greg Dyke calls for more Scottish broadcasting powers

By Jamie McIvor
BBC Scotland news

Image caption,
Greg Dyke addressed a conference in Glasgow

The Scottish Parliament should be given more control over broadcasting, according to the former director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke

Mr Dyke was speaking at a conference in Glasgow on how to move forward plans for a separate Scottish television channel - the Scottish Digital Network.

The network could cost £75m a year, but paying for it could be a challenge.

Use of the TV licence looks unlikely, while the Scottish and UK governments are facing tough budget decisions.

Meanwhile, an over-reliance on advertising may mean that the new channel would not be the kind of public service which its supporters want.

Mr Dyke told delegates at the conference that the Scottish government could have control over certain aspects of broadcasting policy which only affected Scotland.

Control over broadcasting currently rests with Westminster. The architects of devolution argued that this was necessary because big decisions - like broadcasting regulations and the level of the TV licence fee - needed to be constant across the UK.

He also argued that it should be up to the Scottish public and politicians to decide if £75m a year to run the channel was an appropriate use of public money.

The Scottish government has established a panel to look at the options for paying for a Scottish Digital Network. It is expected to announce recommendations by January.

Substantial contribution

It is exploring various possible options involving both public money and advertising and sponsorship.

The aim of the new channel would be to complement the existing Scottish broadcasters - BBC Scotland and STV. It would seek to provide public service competition for the BBC and would not attempt to undermine STV's commercial viability.

But some wonder if there would be enough advertising in Scotland to make a substantial contribution to the cost of the channel without others - STV, commercial radio or newspapers - losing out.

Image caption,
A new network could be funded by the TV licence, direct public funding and commercial funding

They also wonder whether an over-reliance on advertising could undermine the public service aspirations of the new channel.

Mr Dyke also predicted that STV and Ulster Television - the last significant stations on the Channel 3 network which are not owned by ITV plc - may look very different in a few years' time.

He forecast that ITV plc would seek ways of broadcasting ITV1 straight into Scotland and the whole of the island of Ireland once the current Channel 3 regional franchises expire in 2014. It already does this with its other channels, such as ITV2.

If this were to happen, STV and UTV could lose access to programmes such as Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

Although ITV1 London is available on satellite and cable in Scotland and Northern Ireland, officially in order to allow viewers to access a special audio service for blind viewers, its availability in these regions cannot be advertised by ITV plc and any audience it gains is of no benefit to the company.

Senior figures at STV, however, do not seem to believe it is an imminent threat and said their strategy focus was to continue to build the relationship with the audience in Scotland by providing a varied and relevant schedule.

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