The delivery was formal, the lighting flat and the presenter's words underlaid with a distracting hiss of static. On the face of it, BBC Scotland's first TV news broadcast, transmitted on August 30, 1957, bears no relation at all to the sophisticated bulletins of today.

Moving pictures were at a premium: an early item on the birth of two osprey chicks on Speyside featured a stills picture and a gramophone recording of the birds' song. But that first programme is the common ancestor of BBC Scotland's modern multimedia news output combining TV, radio and online.

BBC Scotland is marking this milestone in the history of its news department with a commemorative film, Reported Scotland: 50 Years Of TV News. It follows a celebration dinner which took place on Sunday evening, attended by major figures from the newsroom past and present.

Reporting Scotland, or RepScot, which launched in April 1968, quickly established itself as the definitive Scottish news programme and turned a string of journalists and newsreaders, such as Mary Marquis, Kirsty Wark, Jackie Bird and David Robertson, into household names.

But while TV news continues to evolve, major challenges lie ahead.

Atholl Duncan, head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland, said yesterday: "All TV news programme audiences are in long-term decline because people have more ways to get their news.

"When the Lockerbie disaster happened, more than one million people tuned in to Reporting Scotland; now a big audience for that would be half a million.

"My job is to ensure that, in 10 or 20 years' time, TV news is as relevant and popular as it is now."

TV news was originally a peripheral concern, its launch being prompted by the imminent arrival of rival STV. It was a presenter "doing radio on TV", says Susan Kemp, Reported Scotland producer.

It did not develop a real identity until the launch of Reporting Scotland in 1968. Behind the desk was a newsreader originally from Border TV: Mary Marquis.

A trained actress, she was the first person to be seen on screen when Border went on air in 1961. After leaving the station, she worked at the BBC in Glasgow on magazine-style pieces and from there got the job on RepScot.

She was not the first presenter to achieve celebrity status - others, such as Jamieson Clark, had already done that - but quickly became known for being immaculately turned out and cool under pressure.

She recalls in the programme: "We were often sent out to do quite outré things. On one occasion I had to interview a woman chimney sweep on the top of the building covered in frost in the middle of winter which was fairly hazardous and made more so by the fact that I was expecting a baby in about two months' time."

The Reporting Scotland format was launched by BBC Scotland's new controller Alasdair Milne. Having seen American broadcaster NBC linking up studios in Washington and New York, he decided to try the same in Scotland, launching a programme that cut between studios in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

It increased the status of news among BBC Scotland's output. RepScot covered the North Sea oil boom and the devolution referendum of 1979, and Atholl Duncan was responsible for location output at the time of Lockerbie and Piper Alpha and edited Reporting Scotland at the time of the Dunblane killings. He said: "I think what has marked out TV news has been the coverage of big disasters, moments when the nation has come together."

He believes that the quality of coverage, particularly the sensitive approach of Scottish news teams, has stood out following such events: "Its strength is being able to see things through the eyes of the community affected."

There are always difficulties. BBC Scotland will have endured 230 job cuts by the end of next year as a result of director-general Mark Thompson's efficiency drive and the debate about a Scottish Six and Newsnight Scotland rumbles on.

The main criticism of Newsnight's Scottish opt-out is that, depending on what the story of the day is, it can feel parochial to a viewer who has been watching a major national or international news story.

Mr Duncan stands by Newsnight Scotland for its "compelling, agenda-setting viewing". "Scotland deserves to have a nightly news programme that covers the parliament and calls politicians to account," he said, but pointed out that in the digital world viewers have more choice, including being able to watch the London-based Newsnight if they wish.

Mr Duncan points to the "huge growth" of online hits, parallel with declining viewer numbers, and BBC Scotland's recent move to its new Pacific Quay HQ provides further scope to cross-fertilise different news platforms.

For staff who spent years beetling around the corridors of Queen Margaret Drive sharing single tapes of important footage, it is a dream come true: it is now available on a server for everyone as and when they need it.

BBC Scotland's news coverage has come a long way since those osprey photos, but, as Mr Duncan says, "the next five years could see more change than in the last 50".

A history lesson 1968: Reporting Scotland first aired. Its main competitor, STV's Scotland Today, came on air four years later in 1972.

1976: Future Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark joins Radio Scotland as a researcher, starting out in the station's current affairs department.

1980: To celebrate 50 years of radio broadcasting from its Queen Street studios in Edinburgh, Good Morning Scotland is broadcast on TV, years before the concept of breakfast television is to catch on.

1990: Jackie Bird joins Reporting Scotland where she is still news anchor to this day.

1993: Heather Reid, now also known as "Heather the Weather", makes her debut on Reporting Scotland. Heather is known for not using an autocue, as well as for her famous catchphrase, "hello there". She was awarded an OBE for her contribution to physics in 2006.

1998: BBC governors reject calls for a separate Scottish news broadcast.

Proponents of the so-called "Scottish Six" claim that introducing such a bulletin would counter the BBC's alleged London-centric bias. However, the SNP labels the governors' decision "arrogant and high-handed."