BBC Scotland at risk from cuts? Cut it out.

Projected 16% cuts to BBC Scotland will inevitably mean job losses and changes to programmes.  It has been said that it is hoped most of the cuts in personnel will come through natural wastage over the next 6 years.

Staff will be rightly angry. According to the interview on BBC Scotland’s Newsdrive on 6 October with Ken McQuarrie, this could lead to a deterioration in news and current affairs output. But will it? How good is it currently?

There’s no doubt that all public bodies are facing cut-backs in what is looking like the worst economic situation since the 1930s, and some say it will be worse than that.

BBC employees can speak up for themselves.  They are in the privileged position of being able to use the airwaves to put forward their views. The rest of us have less clout.

Just because Ken McQuarrie says, BBC Scotland’s aim remains to provide high quality and distinctive programmes, content and services that reflect the interests of audiences in Scotland. This is our core public purpose – to capture key cultural moments for our nation, to cover Scottish news and politics, to make content which is distinctively Scottish and which cannot be found on the network, it does not make it true. It’s a point of view. Nothing more.

We are used to complaints that the BBC is too London-based, which is true, except when it comes to BBC Scotland.  BBC Scotland is equally centralised – in Glasgow and while some of the output does come from around the country, news and current affairs are mainly produced in Pacific Quay.

This does nothing to represent the country as a whole. The result has been glaring localism where the emphasis falls firmly on what is going on in the Central Belt and the western part of that in particular.

News and current affairs is dominated by SW views and interests. Whenever experts are called in, chances are they are from local businesses, universities etc. The result is a wee parochial service dressed up as national output.

As it stands BBC Scotland fails as Scotland’s national public service broadcaster.

The problem arose with the BBC’s huge £188 million spend on the Pacific Quay, 50% more than the original budget of £126m and a year late. With centralisation comes cuts elsewhere and for that read a loss of staff and output in other areas of the country. How does this extend the democratisation of the BBC in Scotland? How does centralisation make output more representative of the country? On Newsdrive, 6 October 2011, the BBC Scotland interviewer referred to Pacific Quay’s success in leading to efficiency savings. Just what she meant by this she did not explain. Efficiency in job losses elsewhere in Scotland, perhaps?

Pacific Quay was built as part of the BBC’s investment in Scotland. Should have saved your, sorry, our money.

The BBC maintained Pacific Quay would enable it to, meet its strong commitment to investing in, and commissioning more programmes from, Scotland.

Fair enough – but what about programmes FOR Scotland.

Ken McQuarrie went on in his statement to BBC staff that the organisation will continue to, focus on high quality content which meets the 5 editorial priorities set out in the Putting Quality First strategy – Best Journalism in the world; Inspiring knowledge, culture and music; Ambitious UK drama and comedy; Outstanding Children’s content; Events that bring communities and the nation together

Best Journalism? This is the propaganda which comes out of the BBC all the time. BBC 1’s Reporting Scotland  is introduced as ‘Your national news programme’ or something like that – from memory. Sorry, it’s anything but. Definitely second class output. My opinion. As worthy as Ken McQuarrie’s.

National news output, not talking Scotland but world- wide, is poor compared to other outlets such as al Jazeera. There appears to be fewer reporters around the world which possibly accounts for the rather lean coverage we are offered, and the discussions of news is dismal and appalling compared to other outlets.

There are good programmes on BBC Scotland but what, Ken McQuarrie, are you referring to in, Events that bring communities and the nation together?  Sorry I have no idea. Certainly doesn’t ring any bells.

If, as I suspect, Mr Mc Quarrie and his colleagues are looking for further efficiency cuts the spokes out from the Pacific Quay hub will be areas being targeted for the chop. Which is a shame because the spokes ARE Scotland – not the hub, Mr McQuarrie.

BBC Scotland could certainly make savings by withdrawing more and more into Pacific Quay. Fair enough. Just don’t  call what comes out a national public broadcasting service when it is nothing more than local radio and television.

Dear, oh dear, when I read through the part on news and current affairs where Ken McQuarrie outlines his view that BBC Scotland should keep on, Providing the best journalism for our audiences in Scotland, what can you say? There’s no recognition of any failure in the current system, therefore no chance of any improvements in the future. Is it delusion? Is it arrogance? This view that the BBC is doing such a brilliant job?

When did it become necessary for quite so many football pundits to be hauled in to cover sport, no – just football- games? It’s got totally out of hand. Every other former player gets a contract with BBC Scotland, many of them inarticulate.

When did it become necessary for two presenters plus a sports presenter to host the mid-day current affairs programme on Radio Scotland?  What does that add to anything?

Why is it necessary to have so many road and weather reports throughout the day. This repetition diminishes the news output. The result is Radio Scotland sounds like a local radio station instead of the main national service.

And what about the BBC Trust? I’ve already blogged about its make-up. Virtually no representation from around Scotland so its views can be dismissed as completely unrepresentative of listeners and viewers.

Ken McQuarrie you say you are looking at, the best configuration of our regional radio news opts. My difficulty is, your reference to them as opts. Too often news output is regional, Glasgow. Is this seen as an opt?

Is it beyond the ability of BBC Scotland to have its news and current affairs output coming from different parts of Scotland each day of the week? Surely with current technology it is simple enough to have a presenter do interviews from anywhere around the country? Why always Pacific Quay? This would at least help drive out the default output which is Glasgow and begin to represent the whole of Scotland, or more of Scotland. Certainly more than currently gets a look-in.

Do the decent thing for public broadcasting in Scotland and sell off  Pacific Quay so that the country can, at long last, get the national broadcasting medium it should have to represent all its people.

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