BBC Charter improves, but must go further
New Scottish Service Licence for the first time.
The UK Government’s renewal of the BBC Charter has not fully met the opportunity to deliver for the Scottish audience, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop said today.
The Scottish Government has sought to work constructively with the UK Government since the BBC’s White Paper was published in May. It has recently published an updated blueprint on broadcasting which reiterated a number of key expectations that would need to be delivered for Scotland by the BBC and UK Government.
The Scottish Government has secured:
• An enforceable service licence agreement for Scotland
• A dedicated board member for Scotland
• A commitment to continued support for Gaelic
• Proposals for the BBC to report on its impact in creative industries in Scotland for the first time
• Proposals that the Charter be removed from the election cycle
• A new public purpose to reflect, represent and serve the nations and regions.
The wider proposals from the Scottish Government were aimed at securing the future of the broadcaster for a generation, as well as delivering increased accountability and transparency, while guaranteeing the broadcaster’s independence. The blueprint was developed and shaped by key stakeholders, including leading figures from Scotland’s TV sector.
However the UK Government’s Charter Renewal has failed to deliver:
• A fairer share of the licence fee money raised in Scotland being spent in Scotland which could deliver up to an additional £100m of investment annually in our creative industries. Over a period of an 11 year charter, this could secure up to £1 billion invested directly into Scotland’s economy
• The creation of a Scottish board, not just a BBC appointed sub-committee, which would allow BBC Scotland to have greater control over its budget, and to be given meaningful commissioning power, while holding the corporation to account
• A decentralised BBC to allow for a greater degree of autonomous decision making at an operational level. This was a key issue raised by Scottish stakeholders
• A move towards parity with S4C to enable MG Alba to increase Gaelic output
• Scottish Ministers to lead on the appointment of a Scottish member to the BBC board.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:
“We’ve tried to engage positively with the UK Government and the BBC, which is why it’s disappointing that this Charter has missed the opportunity to fully deliver for the people of Scotland.
“While we welcome the support pledged for better representation of Scotland as a nation, the creative economy and the provision of the Gaelic language, the Charter needs to be more ambitious and Scottish viewers deserve a better outcome. We called for a Charter which protects the BBC’s independence and transformed it structurally and strategically, to ensure Scotland enjoys a far fairer share of the licence fee raised here - as opposed to the current paltry level of only 55%.
“I also welcome that the BBC will have to report annually on a nation by nation basis on their performance, so that the BBC’s impact and contribution to the creative economy can be made transparent to ensure a sustainable future for the creative sector which can provide more jobs, skills and talent from Scotland.
“We wanted to see a Charter which ensured that commissioning, editorial and funding decisions which impact on Scottish programming are made in Scotland and that Scotland’s interests are fully and properly represented. We had hoped to see a Charter which invests in and nurtures the talent we have here and, above all, a BBC that finally catches up with the reality of devolution. Sadly, this Charter does not deliver this.
“There are a range of issues the BBC can take forward regardless of the changes to the Charter in order to be effected. The BBC can still dramatically improve the programming, new output, and the social and economic impact of the BBC in Scotland. Promises have been made by Tony Hall about the future provision for Scotland, and I look forward to seeing these in the BBC’s annual plans and reflected in the new Scottish service licence. Our Parliament will now be able to hold the BBC to account against the delivery of that plan.
“It is now clearer than ever that guaranteed, real and sustainable change will only come when funding and commissioning authority comes to BBC Scotland. We’ll continue to fight to deliver the best outcome for Scotland from this process, and make the case that the UK would benefit from a decentralised BBC, with a fairer share of licence fee raised in Scotland, spent in Scotland.”
Scottish Government’s broadcasting blueprint: