SCOTLAND is finally being given a forum to engage in a major inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting. The Future for Public Service Television inquiry had been criticised by the SNP as “weighted heavily towards southern England”.
Now, inquiry organisers have confirmed there will be a special event in Scotland on April 13, to allow Scottish voices to be heard while the UK Government considers a white paper on charter renewal which will dictate the future of the BBC.
The event – a panel discussion to be chaired in Edinburgh by Labour peer Lord Puttnam – will include speakers such as John McCormick, chairman of the Scottish Screen Leadership Group and a former BBC Scotland controller, and broadcaster and journalist Stuart Cosgrove, formerly head of programmes for nations and regions at Channel 4.
Loading article content
Also on the panel will be Neil Blain, professor emeritus of communications at the University of Stirling, and Angela Haggerty, editor of the Common Space website and the Sunday Herald’s social media columnist.
Last week, the Scottish Government argued for local control of the licence fee to increase investment and jobs north of the Border. In a policy paper on charter renewal, it said an autonomous BBC Scotland, with greater control of licence fee revenue, budgets and commissioning, could boost the country’s economy by £60 million a year.
The paper also proposes a new Scottish-focused version of the Six O’clock News and calls for the creation of a new Scottish TV and radio channel, and for a semi-autonomous Scottish board to hold BBC Scotland to account.
BBC director-general Tony Hall is looking to make savings to meet the £700 million cost of free licence fees for the over-75s, which the BBC agreed to take on after its latest funding settlement.
The Edinburgh event’s chair, Lord Puttnam, a former deputy chairman of Channel 4 and an Oscar-winning film producer, also chairs the Future for Public Service Television inquiry.
At present the Scottish Government is not expected be represented at the event, to be held at The Royal Society of Edinburgh’s George Street base. The timing, during the pre-Holyrood election period, means Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop can't take part in her ministerial capacity.
“It is extremely important that Scottish voices should be heard and reflected in this wide-ranging review of public service television,” said Lord Puttnam. “This event, with its distinguished panel of speakers and participation from the audience, will make a significant contribution to our research and findings.
"We are keen to hear from people in Scotland, either at this debate or more generally in submissions to the inquiry.”
“The current debate on the future of the BBC has demonstrated some dissatisfaction with the public service TV offer in Scotland and the Scots representation in UK-wide public broadcasting,” said John McCormick. “Against the background of constitutional change this event provides a significant opportunity to inform the important debate on the future of public service TV.”
Professor Matthew Hibberd, head of communications, media and culture at the University of Stirling, said the event was welcome given the “heightened interest” in charter renewal debates in Scotland.
“The new BBC settlement will shape the fast-changing broadcasting environment in post-referendum Scotland and will have a major impact on audiences, programme-makers and key policy debates across the mass media,” he said.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said its proposals for the BBC show how the broadcaster can evolve to “deliver better, more representative content for Scottish audiences”.
She added: “We are working hard to ensure all our stakeholders in Scotland have the opportunity to make their views known on this important issue – and we welcome the Future for Public Service and Television Inquiry’s positive response to our call for them to do the same.”