Here Is the News. That the SNP Wants You to Know about; A Former TV Man Argues BBC Scotland Must Change, but Not into a Mouthpiece for Political Propaganda

Daily Mail (London), July 23, 2004 | Go to article overview

Here Is the News. That the SNP Wants You to Know about; A Former TV Man Argues BBC Scotland Must Change, but Not into a Mouthpiece for Political Propaganda


Byline: TIM LUCKHURST

NATIONALIST MSPs Nicola Sturgeon and Kenny MacAskill are furious. It is, they say, 'ridiculous' that the Scottish parliament lacks the power to regulate broadcasting.

Television and radio exert incomparable influence on public opinion. A proper, sovereign parliament would ensure they were licensed here and used to promote distinct Scottish versions of news, culture, sport and entertainment.

Scots, they claim, are fed up with a 'diet of news' produced from a British perspective.

It is time for Scotland to seize control of 'our most powerful and all-pervasive cultural medium'.

These two supporters of Alex Salmond's bid to regain the SNP leadership offer a vision of what might happen if broadcasting was devolved.

They propose a totally separate BBC Scotland. Instead of taking most of its programmes from London, the corporation's Scottish outpost would make them itself. Reporting Scotland would cover the world and home-produced drama would replace imported Australian soap opera. Scottish football would receive the level of attention presently dedicated to Chelsea and Manchester United.

The glamour of television stardom would beckon for dozens of Scottish actors, dancers and musicians.

I f that sounds more like parochialism than Nirvana, it is not the only deficiency in the SNP proposal. The idea of MSPs controlling the airwaves is terrifying. They could not be trusted to support editorial independence.

The tradition of confusing party with public interest is too deeply entrenched. That is one of the main reasons why the architects of devolution decided that broadcasting, like defence and foreign policy, was too important to be controlled by the Scottish parliament.

Even if robust safeguards could be created to protect broadcasters from political interference, devolved broadcasting would do nothing to ensure a reliable stream of quality programmes to the Scottish public.

That is not on the Nationalist agenda. What they really crave is a broadcasting organisation dedicated to promoting a separatist perspective. An autonomous BBC Scotland might inflict a torrent of dull programmes on Scotland, but it would reinforce the SNP's core message that Scotland is different-from the rest of the UK. The proposal also imagines that the BBC in London would continue to supply shows for Scottish broadcasters to transmit or discard as they saw fit. It would not. The putative SBC would be forced to buy BBC shows at commercial rates and larger competitors would dwarf its bidding power.

Equally, there is a large dose of technical naivety behind the idea that a separate SBC would encourage Scots to watch locally made programmes.

Technology has moved on since Nationalists first dreamed of getting their hands on Scottish broadcasting.

Scottish homes can now receive pictures broadcast from anywhere in the world. If the SNP scheme for Scottish broadcasting ever came to fruition, viewers in Scotland would not be obliged to watch extended versions of Reporting Scotland or Hamilton Academical versus Partick Thistle.

Many of us already have access to dozens of channels.

Separating BBC Scotland from the BBC network would do nothing to make us watch it.

Sturgeon and MacAskill have borrowed their idea from S1 revolutionary theory. …

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