Scotland’s Arts as viewed from a window on the Clyde: BBC Scotland and the Arts

BBC Scotland is Scotland’s only national public service broadcaster, responsible for a wide range of local programming and services across television, radio and online platforms that properly reflect the diverse nature of Scotland.

BBC Scotland

The BBC in London took on criticism for being too much of a south-east England organisation posing as the nation’s broadcaster so set about decentralising at the same time BBC Scotland was effectively concentrating its output in its £188 million new-build at Pacific Quay in Glasgow – and £62 million over budget. (Some of us recall its opening night when it was discovered it wasn’t soundproofed with noises of partying leaking through to broadcasts.)

It is odd that while London was being condemned for pandering to its local audience that it was not envisaged that the same could be applied to centralising its Scottish output.

Centralisation rarely works. It effectively favours the area around it – cutting itself off from the rest of us. Instead of spending outrageous millions on this Glasgow centre, the BBC should have had more respect for Scotland and improved the various small studios around the country. The problem comes when, as we have seen with London, local people are employed or outsiders are employed and become local to that area. Soon the outside world is forgotten about. Put it down to costs or complacency or sheer ignorance – the result is broadcasting becomes more and more localised and for a national service that is good enough.

I could have chosen any number of areas to highlight the wee parochialism which characterises BBC Scotland but let’s take a look at its Arts and Culture output.

From listening to Radio Scotland my impression is that most of the output is whatever is going on the central belt and in Glasgow in particular. Now BBC Scotland has a dedicated Arts Correspondent, Pauline McLean. I assumed that as she works for BBC Scotland and there doesn’t appear to be any other Arts Correspondent Ms McLean is supposed to cover the Arts throughout Scotland. So how well are the Arts around Scotland represented on BBC Scotland? Broadcasts come and go so I went to the BBC website to check my perception.

Pauline used to blog for the BBC. Quite a lot actually. She doesn’t do this anymore but the blogs are still on the web. I took a look and so you won’t have to go through the same ordeal I’ve summarised my findings.

Pauline called her blog a View from the South Bank, evidently chosen because it seemed a great play on London’s South Bank. Pauline is at pains to point out that this isn’t London-centric culture, however, no way –but neither did she point out that it was central belt culture in the main and more specifically Glasgow. Yes as Pauline drives home her BBC blog is from Glasgow’s south bank of the Clyde. Yes, I think we get that.

Pauline’s blog presumably tied in with her broadcasts – those I heard and thought – well you know what I thought – radio broadcasts and possibly TV but as some know I don’t do BBC Scotland TV having discovered that it has nothing to say to me in the northeast. That’s the northeast of Scotland not northeast as in England.

I suppose what got me thinking about this was Pauline’s recent great big puff – several puffs for Glasgow’s film festival even promoting the idea that Brigadoon is in fact an important classic when clearly it is bollocks. That didn’t matter as the whole exercise was to push an event in Glasgow.

Let’s move on. Pauline last blogged for the BBC in April last year. Don’t know why her blog stopped. Just cannot imagine. Here’s a run-through.

8 April 2011 Ballet and Glasgows Tramway and the Edinburgh Festival.

4 April 2011 Culzean Castle

29 Mar 2011 Scottish Screen Archive

15 Mar 2011 A remarkably short blog about Plockton School of Traditional Music

10 Mar 2011 Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Glasgow Art Club

4 Mar 2011 A Glasgow restaurant

1 Mar 2011 Dance in West Dunbartonshire but that was only about rehearsals for it swiftly led into back to Glasgow.

28 Feb 2011 Oscar news and animation award and Glasgow for its Film Festival – oh and a ref to how Glasgow Film Festival compares with Edinburgh FF.

25 Feb 2011 National Theatre – at last an opportunity to get out of Glasgow but where is the National Theatre situated – you got it. This was a story about HOME – the NT production which took place at 10 venues around the country. I believe the very first performance took place in Aberdeen but no matter our Scotland Arts Correspondent made no mention she saw it in – Glasgow, natch.

23 Feb 2011 Off to – oh, oh Glasgow. Museums this time – Kelvingrove – and Transport Museum. And a mention of ‘national galleries’ in Edinburgh (no capitals although the Transport Museum did get them) and Kelvingrove. Oh well she’s not the education correspondent. Hey-up a mention of Stirling Castle – with capitals. Still central belt though, innit?

2 Feb 2011 That story about possible closure of the Plockton Trad Music School. At last except the first line refers to Celtic Connections which is based in? Glasgow.

31 Jan 2011 Okay I didn’t expect quite this amount of weegieness when I looked through the blogs but it does what it says, view from the South Bank. And so it’s straight into Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Blah blah blah.

27 Jan 2011 Now we’re motoring – to the Lammermuir Festival and Perth Concert Hall.

27 Jan 2011 Feel better now – was getting quite claustrophobic in there. And we’re still out of the big G in Dundee. Dundee so it must be animation. Och nearly missed it – was so short. She’s back onto Celtic Connections and we know where that is, don’t we – G.

25 Jan 2011 Bob Dylan. Now you’re talking. Can’t possibly…aye it’s Celtic Connections again and lots of it so it’s a G.

19 Jan 2011 NEDs and poetry, Liz Lochhead a poet popular in the central belt with mention of Burns’ home in Alloway.

18 Jan 2011 Glasgow cinema.

12 Jan 2011 Glasgow museum and pretty well Glasgow.

16 Dec 2010 Auchtermuchty nativity play.That’s Fife by the way.

14 Dec 2010 General little list of observations about critics which mentions various foreign places, oh and Edinburgh Festival.

7 Dec 2010 Pauline sympathising with audience member having to brave travel difficulties in Glasgow to get to an event in Glasgow. And other events in Glasgow – oh and one in Edinburgh.

7 Dec 2010 – Yes a double bill from our Pauline. Travel chaos – I think she means it was snowing and her high heels probably got stuck in a brander because she didn’t make it to Edinburgh – not then but gave us one wee snippet on an exhibition at National Galleries in Edinburgh. Have to say this blog read like extracts from an exhibition leaflet. Just how difficult is it to be the BBC Art Correspondent?

3 Dec 2010 Time for music from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Why are there spaces between each sentence? It’s a curious way to write. Could it be she thinks her readers, assuming anyone is reading this stuff apart from me and the precious few comments suggest I’m almost alone, are a bit s-l-o-w? So where are we?  She doesn’t say. I’ll have to check this one. Will get back to you. You knew, didn’t you? Glasgow.

1 Dec 2010 Plucky Pauline makes ‘through snow-filled Glasgow to snow free Ayrshire’ – just a small point but why does ‘snow-filled’ take a hyphen while ‘snow free’ doesn’t? Okay, okay. Burns Birthplace Museum. But Pauline’s blog wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Glasgow and perhaps Edinburgh – and yes they are both here.

29 Nov 2010 Scottish Opera, tell me they’re no based in Glasgow? with a link to South Africa. Course they are.

21 Nov 2010 Book Festival East Lothian. Wee mention of the Borders Book ‘festival’ – without a capital ‘F’. Oh she mentions the horrible Scottish weather. Does she mean west of Scotland weather? Pauline wouldn’t know as she rarely drags herself out of the west of Scotland.

19 Nov 2010 And Pauline has travelled all the way to Georgia – only kidding it’s an item about a primary school in Wishaw. Not so far out and about then. Oh and Edinburgh.

18 Nov 2010 Creative Scotland and cuts. Mention of Glasgow and Dundee

15 Nov 2010 Glasgow

9 Nov 2010  Pauline really has a vocabulary of one-liners. Scottish Ballet/ Edinburgh Festival.

4 Nov 2010 Glasgow/Edinburgh Festival

29 Oct 2010 Glasgow

26 Oct 2010 Edinburgh

22 Oct 2010 ‘I’m aware I have one of the best jobs in the country,’ writes Pauline. I should cocoa. You don’t even have to move off your own sofa it appears given some of these blogs, a bit like myself only I don’t claim to represent anyone else far less Scotland. Nearly forget where are we today Pauline? Let me guess. Glasgow. Got it in one. Next.

21 Oct 2010 Glasgow.  A few token mentions of other places all in relation to the Glasgow feature of Celtic Connections which is 3 months away but Pauline isn’t in the mood for seeking her culture elsewhere if she can hang around Glesca.

19 Oct 2010 Glesca.

5 Oct 2010 C’mon, c’mon do something interesting. Cuts to arts funding so we might just get out and about as an example to –to –Glasgow again and again and …

1 Oct 2010 Feel good factor? Pauline asks – let’s hope so Pauline, let’s hope so. Worthy topic of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival – Glasgow.

28 Sept 2010 Mackintosh again. Glasgow.

24 Sept 2010 NTS problems – not clear if our Pauline actively sought out views or re-wrote someone else’s report. Mention of Burns Museum Alloway.

20 Sept 2010 Carbuncle award – mention of John O’Groats. Name checks too to Denny and Falkirk. Not much culture there then.

6 Sept 2010 If it’s film it must be Glasgow. Cinema hasn’t reached anywhere else in Scotland – or should that read – BBC Scotland’s Art Correspondent hasn’t reached anywhere else in Scotland.

3 Sept 2010 No place mention but it’s the Fringe – so it’s Edinburgh.

2 Sept 2010 Open Doors. Now everywhere in Scotland does Doors Open so – Glasgow gets first call – oh, oh, Shetland and Greenock, Inverness and Aberdeen, och she’s fair line up which is obvious she’s picked up a few leaflets or more likely gone onto the Doors Open website.

30 Aug 2010 Pauline writes about a ‘film Festival’ – think it’s Scotland’s main Film Festival in Edinburgh. Yep, that it is but she can’t mention Edinburgh without a wee aside about Glasgow. At the end she reveals how as a young reporter in Glasgow  the Edinburgh Festival had never been on her radar until sent out to cover something but was desperate to get back to Glasgow. Something she hasn’t shaken off.

24 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

23 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

21 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

20 Aug 2010 Edwin Morgan’s death so naturally this is a Glasgow feature with mention of Edinburgh.

18 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

14 Aug 2010 Edinburgh  and Glasgow

12 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

10 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

8 Aug 2010 Edinburgh

6 Aug 2010 ‘the fringe’ but think she means The Fringe. Possibly in a rush. Whatever the little that’s in this blog is set in Edinburgh.

5 Aug 2010 Edinburgh – Fringe and fringe – two different organisations or just…?

27 July 2010 Edinburgh and UK Film Council.

20 July 2010 Scottish cultural scene boiled down to Glasgow/Edinburgh.

16 July 2010 Various mentions in Ireland and England and back to Scotland and to Glasgow.

20 June 2010 Edinburgh

17 June 2010 Edinburgh

16 June 2010 – I recognise that picture on Pauline’s blog – Guthrie’s Goose Girl from Aberdeen Art Gallery so there is culture elsewhere. Of course this is a story about the Glasgow Boys and a Glasgow art collector. What you rock n roll it, Pauline didn’t even say where this picture can be seen all year round or that Guthrie came from Greenock.

11 June 2010 Edinburgh

4 June 2010 Glasgow for glitz and name checks for other places and the carbuncle award.

1 June 2010 Leith – that’s Edinburgh right?

17 May 2010 Union Terrace Gardens – can’t get CB into this Aberdeen story and the strange thing is she got loads of comments following this blog. Most of her blogs attracted none.

14 May 2010 Somewhere in the central belt.

10 May 2010 Glasgow .

7 May 2010 Edinburgh

5 May 2010 Edinburgh

30 April 2010 Glasgow

28 April 2010 NTS

20 April 2010 Pauline doesn’t say where she is. Oh, she’s at the opera Edinburgh I think tho’ could have been Glasgow.

9 April 2010 Glasgow

1 April 2010 Glasgow

30 March 2010 Inverness. Hurrah, hurrah. This is more like it.

29 March 2010 Glasgow

26 March 2010 Kirkcaldy so it must be Vettriano.

17 March 2010 Edinburgh

13 March 2010 ‘the Secc’ so I assume this is the SECC in Glasgow.

11 March 2010 National Theatre –of Wales.

1 March 2010 Glasgow.

27 Feb 2010 a bit of Glasgow.

24 Feb 2010 Usher Hall is – you see there’s an assumption in Pauline’s blog that everyone is familiar with her world. Google – and it’s Edinburgh.

8 Feb 2010 Aberdeen and Union Terrace Gardens. Cripes nothing happens in Aberdeen other than the Garden campaign.

4 Feb 2010 And again.

27 Jan 2010 Jan so it has to be Glasgow.

25 Jan 2010 Nat Lib Scotland – Edinburgh and Burns.

22 Jan 2010 Glasgow.

19 Jan 2010 Glaasgow.

18 Jan 2010 Glaaasgow.

12 Jan 2010 Aberdeen and Union Terrace Gardens again.

And so she goes on and a quick click through reveals the usual fare served up. Has so little effort ever gone into reporting a nation’s Arts?

Pauline evidently had enough of blogging to no-one but plucky old BBC Scotland have provided a dedicated Arts & Culture website to keep us up-to-date with what’s happening in the cultural life of Scotchland.

I know it’s repetitive so I’ve condensed it to location ( mainly).

Glasgow. Glasgow .Edinburgh. Shetland. Shetland. Edinburgh. Edinburgh. Glasgow. Shetland. Glasgow. Glasgow. Glasgow. N.Y. Glasgow. Gaelic songs. Scots language. Glasgow? Glasgow. Glasgow. Glasgow . Glasgow. Glasgow.

GMS report

Week 5 March 2012

Pauline rolls out of bed to bring a report from Glasgow.

Week 12 March 2012

Pauline goes to no end of trouble to bring another report from Glasgow.

Tues 13 March Pauline defies expectations and travels all the way to Edinburgh for a royal occasion for Newsdrive and possible Reporting Scotland (sic).  Nah she wouldn’t miss out on something like that.

Okay there we have it. Scotland’s cultural map —well mapped out for you by the nation’s own BBC although when you look at it, it is more a tale of two cities.


Week of 23 April 2012

BBC Scotland GMS: Pauline leaned across her chaise-longue and reached for a promotional statement about Clearances App and presumably picked up a cheque for reading it on GMS which anyone of the presenters could have read for no extra cost. On Thursday she dragged herself into the studio in Glasgow to deliver info on more kulchure in the Central Belt. She’s nothing if not consistent.

4 Responses to “Scotland’s Arts as viewed from a window on the Clyde: BBC Scotland and the Arts”

  1. It is the system and the culture at BBC on the Clyde which believes it can behave like a local radio service. It’s easy enough to travel around much of Scotland without overnight stays and her blogs read as if they are taken straight off press releases or publicity shots. She could have picked up on the many arts activities throughout Scotland online or through regional newspapers and spoken to people running events on the phone but clearly hasn’t felt compelled to do so.

    I’ll look at your blogspot. Thanks.

  2. I’m loathe to blame Pauline for the centralist nature of her output. Her excursions are ultimately ok’d by her editor and by the Beeb purse strings, which don’t allow for many overnights.

    One solution is to do something similar to those bright sparks in the soothwest at and cover their own stories of ra culture in their neck of the woods…


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