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BBC must be bold and catch up with devolution

Published: 24 Sep 2015 10:00

Culture Secretary sets out vision for the BBC in Scotland.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has set out the Scottish Government's vision for the future of the BBC.

She outlined proposals that the BBC operate under a federal structure, with boards made up of BBC staff and independent members operating in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

Budgets would be transferred to BBC Scotland, which would allow not only independent decision making in relation to commissioning and editorial decisions, but also staffing structures and the wider running of the organisation. This would enable commissioning coming direct from BBC Scotland to further support the creative industries in Scotland and would not require new money, but a re-allocation of existing funding.

The Scottish Government are also seeking to secure a fairer share of the BBC budget for the BBC in Scotland, and the development of an additional TV channel and radio station.

Ms Hyslop made the speech at a consultation event with stakeholders, which saw leading figures from Scotland's TV sector meet to discuss the possibilities of Charter renewal and how to work together to support the BBC as a quality public sector broadcaster meeting the needs of Scotland.

The event is part of a consultation process which is informing the Scottish Government's approach towards Charter renewal. The Scottish Government now has a formal role in the Charter Renewal process, following the recommendations of the Smith Commission and as part of this process has met with as many stakeholders as possible, in order to get a clear sense of what matters most to Scotland. This has also included meetings with the UK Government Secretary of State John Whittingdale, and James Purnell who is leading on the review for the BBC. The Cabinet Secretary is also due to meet with Lord Hall, Director -General of the BBC.

Ms Hyslop said:

"The UK has changed dramatically since devolution but the BBC has yet to catch-up with the impact of devolution and truly reflect the complex, varied and rich realities of our society.

"Scotland has the right to expect something truly radical from the Charter review, if the BBC is to meet the needs and reflect the lives of Scottish audiences to support the development of a sustainable production sector in Scotland.

"Today I have outlined the Scottish Government's proposals for the future of the BBC: a federal BBC, with at least a board for each nation, with a mix of BBC staff and independent members.

"This model itself would not incur any great additional costs, but would encourage independent decision making over editorial direction, staffing structures and commissioning, and cooperation over the wider running of the organisation. This must be also be supported by a proportionate share of the BBC licence fee, ensuring spend in Scotland reflects what is raised in Scotland. There is currently a clear mis-match between the licence fee raised in Scotland and the amount spent in Scotland of around £120m.

"This model would ensure resources can be stewarded intelligently in a way appropriate to the context – equipping the BBC in Scotland with more tools to deliver a high-quality service.

"This Government has called for the creation of a new TV and radio channel, to support the demands of audiences and the TV sector. New television and radio platforms are the accelerator through which we can improve the sustainability of our production sector and make it more representative of life in Scotland.

"My ambition on this journey is a destination that sees the BBC in Scotland delivering a public service both in how it does its business as well as the high quality and meaningful content experienced by audiences. I want to see content that is genuinely representative and empowers and inspires debate, from Selkirk to Shetland, form Paisley to Portree."