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Agenda: Under scrutiny: Does our media reflect what's really happening?

Recently, I chaired a debate at the City of Edinburgh Council's Culture and Sport Committee that looked at the future shape of broadcasting in Scotland.

As convener of the committee, I was keen to follow up our very successful debate on the future of Scottish print journalism held in March.

Joined by representatives from the NUJ and Napier University's journalism faculty, the one thing that became clear to everyone present was the Scottish broadcasting industry's challenge to provide quality regional news and entertainment within limited budgets.

Unfortunately the BBC, who were intending to participate in the committee debate, subsequently declined, becoming concerned at the participation of the NUJ in the forum as well as citing concerns about the proximity to the referendum in September.

In short, I believe they felt that until Scotland's future (and by extension their own future) had been decided at the ballot box, it would be premature to engage in such a wide-ranging discussion.

Respectfully, our committee felt the issues could not wait. At a time when the BBC numbers at the Tun (the main BBC studio next to Holyrood) have fallen to about 25 (from a peak of 120-plus in the old Edinburgh Queen Street studios) this has real significance, both for local jobs but more broadly for Edinburgh's claim to be a European capital (whatever the result of September's election).

And at a time when BBC London is increasingly devolving power to Salford and Cardiff I'm continually being asked: is it right or desirable that we, in Scotland, should be centralising BBC services to Pacific Quay in Glasgow?

This is, of course, taking place in an environment where STV has established a bespoke TV station to cover Edinburgh in the last couple of years. In other words, the private sector has been increasing its direct investment in the Scottish capital. I wonder if there is something odd in this divergent approach taken by our two national broadcasters?

Then there is the issue of the perceived unequal playing-field of Scottish newspapers having to compete with a state-subsidised broadcaster for news. This was a concern expressed in unison by Scottish newspaper editors in the committee's previous debate on printed journalism and is something that surely the BBC will be unable to ignore when its charter comes up for renewal: that is, how can local papers and journalists provide a service to compete with a state-subsidised international monolith which has a staff of hundreds worldwide to draw upon?

As we head towards the referendum debate in September our broadcast media is, rightly, under more scrutiny than ever. It was of some concern to members of the committee that during the recent European Parliament campaign Ukip (a party with no Westminster or Holyrood representatives and polling less than 10% in Scotland) appeared to receive blanket coverage on network TV.

Where were the Green Party representatives, the Scottish Socialists, and other parties polling at a similar level in Scotland?

All of this comes only a few short weeks after Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg held two peak-time debates on UK wide television.

Is it reasonable to ask the question - to what extent is the national media reflecting what is happening in Scottish society and to what extent is London metropolitan dominance still dictating what we see on our screens? And does such media coverage duly reflect the political debate?

As a committee we are already looking forward to continuing our discussion post-referendum with the BBC and other broadcasters, since whichever decision about our constitutional position is taken, issues involving broadcasting lie at the very heart of the way our nation views itself, presents itself on the world stage and defines its future priorities and aspirations.

It promises to be another engaging debate for all concerned.

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