Scotland politics

Call for more powers for BBC Scotland

BBC Scotland building Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Scottish government wants BBC Scotland to be given far greater control over its own decision-making

BBC Scotland should be given more power over commissioning and budgets to tackle fears the broadcaster has a "London bias", MSPs have urged.

Holyrood's culture committee issued the call as the BBC prepares for charter renewal.

The BBC receives about £3.7bn every year from the TV licence fee, with about £323m collected in Scotland.

The BBC welcomed the report, adding decisions about Scottish services should be made in Scotland.

With the Scottish Parliament given a formal role in the BBC's charter renewal process for the first time, the culture committee has been examining its operations and argues "substantial change" is needed.

The committee report said the broadcaster "does not produce accounts for BBC Scotland", making it "impossible to associate spending with the delivery of the BBC's services in Scotland".

MSPs asked the BBC to provide detailed information on its spending in Scotland and said while the corporation "gave some insight into the figures", this was "not sufficiently detailed to allow effective scrutiny".

The BBC in Scotland

What is raised and what is spent?

£323m

Licence fee generated in Scotland

  • £123m - Scottish-only output spend

  • £82m - Scottish-made network output

  • £132.5m - UK programmes and services available to Scotland

The report said the "lift and shift" of programmes - where productions such as Waterloo Road have been moved to Scotland - had resulted in serious allegations "that the BBC's commissioning practice has operated to subvert the spirit of the quota, which can mean the quota spend does not benefit Scotland".

MSPs said this gave them "serious cause for concern".

They said: "We expect a greater degree of decentralisation of and accountability for commissioning and accompanying budgets across the nations and regions to rebalance the concern the BBC has a London bias.

"This should lead to improvements in the way the BBC portrays Scotland and the diversity of Scottish culture and identity.

"It should also benefit the creative industries in Scotland by attracting, developing and retaining talent, thus helping the sector become strong, sustainable and competitive. It is not enough just to improve access to commissioners."

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has called for the BBC to adopt a federal structure but the committee said implementing its suggestions would "not necessarily" require this.

They stressed the changes they want to see "but would require greater decentralisation of decision making, commissioning and accompanying budgets".

A BBC Scotland spokesman said: "We've already announced ongoing reviews on commissioning and news provision, and we have also said we want to better represent and portray Scottish audiences across all BBC services.

"As we said in our evidence, we believe the BBC's decisions about its Scottish services should be made in Scotland.

"We look forward to further discussions with the Scottish Parliament and other partners through the Charter process, as agreed in our Memorandum of Understanding."


What is the BBC charter and why is it important?

Image caption The BBC's charter was last renewed in 2007
  • The Royal Charter is the constitutional basis for the BBC and, as such, effectively allows the BBC to exist.
  • It sets out the public purposes of the corporation, guarantees its independence, and outlines the duties of the people that run it - the Trust and the Executive Board.
  • The first charter ran from 1 January 1927 to 31 December 1936.
  • The current charter states that the BBC exists to serve the public interest.
  • It sets out how the BBC should serve audiences through its six "public purposes" such as "representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities".
  • The charter runs until 31 December 2016, and the UK government has already started a review process to put in place a new charter for the next 10 years.

Find out more about Charter Renewal

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