East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson has called on the BBC to “plan and deliver” a Scottish Six news programme edited and anchored in Scotland.
This was the recommendation of the cross-party Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee at Westminster. The local MP, who is the SNP Culture and Media spokesperson, is a member of the Committee.
The report by the Committee, out today (Tuesday), is the response to the BBC White Paper, which will form the basis of the BBC’s next 11 year Charter.
In addition to recommending a comprehensive Scottish Six TV news bulletin – as currently being piloted by BBC Scotland - the Committee also welcomes the decision to abolish the BBC Trust and establish a unitary Board, to consolidate regulation of the BBC within Ofcom and to enhance the role of the National Audit Office in overseeing the BBC accounts.
Mr Nicolson, a former BBC journalist, said: “BBC Scotland should now deliver a high quality Six o’clock television news programme for Scottish audiences with a broader remit of national, UK, and international stories - in the way that Radio Scotland or any newspaper already does.
“This cross party Committee found that for a ‘Scottish Six’ to work it needs to be edited and presented from Scotland.
“The BBC must resist any hybrid options with a parallel studio and co-presenter in London for non-Scottish stories. As the Committee concluded - this would be both needlessly extravagant, and patronising.
“Too often, network news programmes transmitted from London cover purely English stories – for instance on health, justice or education – which do not reflect or report the different situations across the UK post devolution.
“The BBC has already acknowledged there is dissatisfaction with this situation.
“The Committee firmly believes it is perfectly reasonable for editorial decisions on the running order for TV news broadcasts in Scotland to be made in Scotland, drawing on all of the BBC’s resources at home and abroad, and broadcast from Scotland.
“This has happened very successfully on BBC Radio Scotland for years on programmes like Good Morning Scotland and Newsdrive.
“I believe that a broader remit for BBC Scotland television news would drive up standards, increase job opportunities for journalists here in Scotland, and build audiences.
“The Committee also expressed concerns over the way in which the BBC Chair Rona Fairhead was reappointed without a recruitment process.
“The Chair should have been recruited, not as a result of a cosy conversation in Downing Street, but through an open and orderly public competition, as is standard in the public sector and as the Government has proposed for other members of the board.”
On salaries, the Committee has proposed that BBC should publish details of any presenter or reporter paid more than the Prime Minister (currently £143,000). BBC executive pay is already published, and the Committee concluded that high level presenter and reporter salaries should be known when paid for by the licence payer.
John Nicolson added: “As a public service broadcaster, the BBC must be as open and transparent as possible. It must reflect the changing needs of its audience and a growing diversity of demand across the UK.”