NUJ Scotland

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BBC Scotland Chapel Submission

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NUJ GLASGOW BROADCASTING BRANCH
SUBMISSION TO THE DCMS GREEN PAPER ON THE BBC

THE NUJ is making a national written submission to this process. We in the union’s Glasgow and Edinburgh BBC Chapel and in the Glasgow Broadcasting Branch believe a further submission is appropriate, given the distinctive political and media context in Scotland

The Chapel and Branch fully support the NUJ’s main submission to the Charter Renewal process. However, there is a need for those considering the future of the BBC to consider the views of the staff who work in Scotland.

NUJ members in BBC Scotland believe the Corporation ought to be bold in its ambitions. The current funding and commissioning set up does not reflect properly the way Scotland and the UK have changed since 1999.

The evidence of dissatisfaction among Scottish audiences for BBC services needs to be addressed. This can be achieved partly through cultural change in the way all the nations and regions are portrayed on network output.

But it is also important to give Scottish audiences an improved choice of programming to reflect distinctive perspectives north of the Border. That requires a significant re-ordering of the way budgets are allocated.

A CHANGED BBC FOR A CHANGED SCOTLAND

We have seen BBC Scotland’s proposals and would welcome the following:

* Extra investment of £100m per year in BBC Scotland, with responsibility for commissioning and scheduling remaining in Scotland.

* That the emphasis within BBC Scotland ought to shift to serving Scottish audiences
first and foremost with a view to selling successful, quality programming to the rest
of the UK network, and abroad. This would allow us to serve Scottish audiences
better, while strengthening our ability to deliver for audiences across the UK.

We note also the proposals for:

* The creation of a BBC 2 Scotland HD opt-out channel, allowing for six hours of
Scottish programming in prime-time, every night. This would sit separately on a
prominent position on the EPG, alongside existing channels.

* The establishment of a second Radio Scotland service, splitting the current
Programming between the two new channels, with increased and varying
programming, with an emphasis on investment in news and current affairs.

We welcome plans for additional services, which would reflect the already vastly broadened choice for TV audiences, and better reflect the expectations of radio audiences. However, experience teaches us to be sceptical about such plans unless they are adequately funded.

We believe these plans can only work with proper, sustained investment.

The News and Current Affairs department at BBC Scotland is in urgent need of investment, and a review of its services and programmes. As Scotland gains more political power, there will be a need for greater coverage and deeper scrutiny in our news programmes.

After years of cost-cutting, job losses and poor management, more resources and a better relationship between BBC Scotland and our audiences are essential. This will take time, and cost money, but no progress can be made in our NCA output without a commitment to increased funding and staffing levels.

Our aim should be to provide ambitious, high quality original programming which reflects contemporary Scotland, 356 days a year. This should cover all genres, and increased investment in entertainment, factual, drama and comedy would better serve our audiences, boost the Scottish independent production sector, and benefit the economy.

BBC Scotland should remain an integral part of the BBC, but with greater devolved management, We note the proposal from the Scottish government for a federal structure to the BBC. This way forward is worth considering. We await more detail on how it could work.

But it is clear to us that the current funding and commissioning structure does not allow us to reflect all of Scotland and the changes which have taken place here. Change is essential.

GOVERNANCE

In Scotland, this debate is dominated by the question of who should have powers over broadcasting policy. These remain reserved to London, and supporters of independence will continue to argue that the powers should move to Holyrood.

The NUJ nationally takes no view on whether BBC Scotland ought to be independent and NUJ members at BBC Scotland do not take a single view or pursue any policy position on this.

Our experience here at BBC Scotland has been that the current governance structure has failed.

Members want the best and most effective governance structure, which allows for effective oversight and scrutiny, while ensuring the independence of BBC journalism.

We welcome engagement with Holyrood and Westminster in the ways in which BBC Scotland is held accountable.

Should broadcasting powers be devolved to Holyrood, or transferred at some point to an independent Scotland, we would argue that the BBC’s editorial independence be enshrined in Charter.

We believe there is a gap in scrutiny within the BBC. An independent board of governors or trustees should be put in place, to which BBC Scotland’s executive team would be accountable. This should protect the organisation from inappropriate political interference.

CONCLUSIONS

The current level of funding and system of governance for BBC Scotland is not acceptable. So far, BBC management has shown little grasp of how much the context in Scotland requires radical change. Nor does the UK Government’s Green Paper give adequate attention to the question of devolving power to the nations and regions within the BBC.

A debate about the limits of public service broadcasting is of interest to the UK Government and of particular interest to commercial media, but it is not the primary issue that needs to be addressed in Scotland.

Cuts to staffing and resources over the period of the current licence fee settlement have left BBC Scotland, and News and Current Affairs in particular, under immense pressure at a time when cultural and political developments have demanded more commitment and more funding.

The next Charter must address these shortcomings if the BBC is to meet Scottish audiences’ expectations.

These are our initial reactions to the Green Paper. We are preparing a more detailed examination of the future of BBC Scotland, which will be published in due course. We look forward to contributing further to the debate about the Corporation’s future.

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