New BBC Scotland channel a “shift in the right direction”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

Scotland’s new BBC television channel is a welcome step in the right direction, but must be properly resourced, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has said today.

Responding to today’s (Wednesday) announcement that a new channel will begin broadcasting next autumn and additional funding will be made available for Scotland to make UK-wide programmes, Ms Hyslop said the move is “a real shift in the right direction” by the BBC in response to calls for a new channel.

She continued: “While the increased investment in both journalism and wider production in Scotland is long overdue, this is a very positive development.

The BBC announced earlier today the launch of a new flagship 9pm news programme on a completely new channel. The hour-long programme will be edited and presented in Scotland and will broadcast stories from Scotland, the UK and the world.

And the channel will have a budget of £30m, equivalent to the amount spent on BBC4.

The plans for the channel also include an increase of about £20 million a year to make UK-wide programmes and 80 jobs for journalists across the country,

Speaking to BBC staff in Glasgow, BBC director general Tony Hall described it as the biggest single investment in broadcast content in Scotland for more than 20 years.

The BBC is investing £19 million a year for the three years up to March 2019 to fund the BBC Scotland channel, which will be available on digital services such as Freeview and Sky, as well as online and via the iPlayer.

Ms Hyslop said: “The Scottish Broadcasting Commission estimated in 2009 that a similar channel would cost around £75 million a year – more than double the £30 million announced today. It’s vital that the new BBC Scotland channel has complete commission and editorial independence, and is provided with the funding needed to match ambition.

“The new channel will increase the proportion of the licence fee raised in Scotland that is spent in Scotland in years to come – but sadly will still fall well short of the proportiate share being spent in Northern Ireland and Wales. We continue to call for the BBC to put Scotland on an equal footing with other devolved nations.

“I welcome the additional £20m for Scotland to make BBC network programmes, which will strengthen growth in our vibrant creative industries. We want to see this investment continue to increase so that Scottish content on the wider BBC network is not sidelined.

“Investment in 80 new journalism jobs is fantastic news, and goes to underline that Scotland has the talent and skills to produce an hour-long news and current affairs programme covering issues from home and around the world.

“In the intervening 18 months before the new TV channel is established, the BBC must invest in quality news and affairs programming so that they deliver content that is relevant to the people of Scotland as we move through Brexit, the triggering of Article 50 and beyond.”