THE outside world may be a little surprised, but the BBC are not: the corporation's regulator, Ofcom, is going to take several months to further scrutinise the corporations plans for a new BBC Scotland channel.

Ofcom will publish its decision by July 11, only a handful of months before the new station is to due to go live on air on its new digital platform.

And, feasibly, Ofcom could call a halt to the whole proposal.

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That decision, one of four it could make in its deliberations, would be a severe blow to the BBC.

Not only would it have to scrap its plans, it would see the end of the hour-long evening news show for Scotland which has been long-debated, and would call into question the future of the dozens of journalists that the BBC in Scotland will hire to man its new operations.

So that option, the worst case scenario for the BBC (and, one might say, the TV production sector in Scotland), remains unlikely, but it is still possible.

BBC Scotland have already begun hiring staff for the station, including researchers and several top executive positions.

Ofcom, it has now said, is to subject the plans for the new station to a Broadcasting Competition Assessment (BCA).

They could have advocated a Shorter Assessment (SA) but have deemed the longer review more appropriate.

Sources at the BBC said last night that a BCA was anticipated, given the extent of the plans for the BBC in Scotland: a new channel, a sizeable increase in journalists (around 80) and an obvious impact on the wider broadcasting landscape north of the border.

Ofcom say a BCA is appropriate when a "proposal raises large, complex and/or particularly contentious issues, potentially involving a number of interested parties and ways in which there may be an adverse impact on fair and effective competition”.

It is notable that Ofcom feel that the BBC should have examined several issues itself in greater detail.

One of these is "consideration of the additional public value generated by the BBC’s proposal to the overall public value of its activities for Scottish audiences...in particular the impact on the public value of the proposed reduction in BBC Four’s prominence on platforms in Scotland, and the removal of Scotland-only programming from BBC Two, as well as the impact on BBC Alba."

Ofcom has six months, now in which to conduct a BCA into the proposed BBC Scotland television channel.

This process will involve market research and economic analysis, and will also take account "of the stakeholders responses Ofcom have already received."

If halting the whole plan is one possible conclusion of this analysis, what are the others?

The second is the most straightforward: a green light to the BBC proposals, as they stand.

The third is that the proposal is given a tentative green light, allowing the corporation to launch the new channel, subject to added conditions or even modifications which "Ofcom require" (and it is hard, right now, to know what they might be.)

The fourth likely outcome is that the BBC is told by Ofcom to reconsider elements of its own public interest test, or, Ofcom says "follow any further procedures that we consider appropriate."