NUJ in Scotland welcomes the constructive dialogue between the Scottish government and senior BBC management on Charter renewal.
As part of a targeted campaign the BBC chapel in Pacific Quay last week agreed to submit their own proposals as part of the campaign for improved resources for BBC Scotland. This follows a series of presentations by Ken MacQuarrie Controller of BBC Scotland and his management team laying out their proposals for change.It now appears that the unions and management are singing from the same hymn sheet although there remains some minor differences in the submissions. Both sides are now engaging with politicians and civic society as part of a campaign for more funding for north of the border.
This week Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop outlined the Scottish Government’s priorities for BBC Charter renewal in a meeting with the head of the corporation. At a meeting with BBC Director General Tony Hall, Ms Hyslop argued that the corporation should operate under a new federal structure and create new TV and radio channels for Scotland. Her meeting with Lord Hall was the latest of several the Culture Secretary has held in recent weeks with key representatives of the BBC and UK Government to outline the Scottish Government’s expectations from the current BBC Charter renewal process.
It comes in the midst of a consultation exercise the Scottish Government is carrying out with the public and stakeholders across Scotland to inform its approach towards Charter renewal. The NUJ along with sister unions in the Scottish federation of entertainment unions are part of that process and have held a series of meetings with the Culture Secretary’s office to put forward their proposals for investment in BBC Scotland.
Following her meeting with Lord Hall in London, Ms Hyslop said: “Scotland has the right to expect something truly radical from the BBC Charter review if the organisation is to meet the needs of audiences or support the development of a sustainable production sector in Scotland. We have made clear our proposals – both publicly and directly to key figures from the BBC and UK Government. But to reiterate, we’re calling for a federal BBC, with at least a board for each nation that should comprise a mix of BBC staff and independent members. Budgets should be transferred to BBC Scotland, which would allow independent decision making in relation to commissioning and editorial decisions, staffing structures and the wider running of the organisation. We’re also calling for the creation of a new TV and radio channel to support the demands of audiences and the TV sector in Scotland.
“These proposals must be supported by a proportionate share of the BBC licence fee, addressing the current mismatch between the £335 million income for the BBC from Scotland and the £190 million spent here, of which only around £35 million is spent on TV production for Scotland.
“From the discussions we have held so far with the sector in Scotland, we know there is support for our proposals and an appetite for positive change through the charter renewal process.
“We understand the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has been overwhelmed with responses to their recent consultation, which demonstrates the importance of the BBC’s role as our primary public sector broadcaster. I look forward to receiving more information from DCMS on responses specific to Scotland, which we will be analysing through our role as partners in the process of charter review.
“I was pleased to discuss with Lord Hall today our proposals for the future of the BBC, and how these can improve the sustainability of our production sector and ensure programming is more representative of life in Scotland.”
There as been a concerted effort to ensure broadcasting in Scotlandis firmly on the agenda and UK and Scottish Governments agreed a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this year guaranteeing the Scottish Government will be consulted in the whole process of charter renewal.
The Culture Secretary also hosted a stakeholder consultation event in Glasgow in September, bringing together leading figures from Scotland’s TV sector to discuss the possibilities of charter renewal. At that event Ms Hyslop set out her proposals for a new federal structure for the BBC: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/BBC-must-be-bold-and-catch-up-with-devolution-1d8d.aspx
NUJ and the SFEU have sought political backing and they have been delighted with the response from the SNP and Green Party. Some discussions have taken place with the Labour Party but further meetings will be required before the joint unions’ position is accepted. There appears to be some concern amongst Labour MSP’s in relation to funding demands across the nations and regions.
NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said: “We have an almost unique situation where the unions and BBC management are making the same arguments and we are looking for cross party support. This is a specifically Scottish submission as part of the consultation and does not contradict or conflict with our support for more devolution and resources across the nations and regions of the BBC.”
A BBC spokesman was quoted as saying “We recognise that there is audience demand for greater representation and portrayal of Scottish audiences on all BBC services and set out our ambition to achieve this in our proposals for the BBC in the year ahead including improved news, education and online services.
“The BBC’s funding has now been set for the next five years, this will mean cuts for the BBC and we will have to balance our investment on pan-UK services with dedicated services in the nations. We will aim to protect spending in the nations so that the content investment is cut less than elsewhere in the BBC and we look forward to working with the Scottish government on these issues.”
In August Ms Hyslop convened a meeting of Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to discuss the priorities of the three devolved administrations for public service broadcasting and the future of the BBC. In a joint statement Fiona Hyslop, Northern Ireland Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín, and Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture Ken Skates pledged to work in partnership to ensure the interests of the devolved administrations are central to the charter renewal process: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Governments-meet-over-BBC-future-1bbb.aspx