SCOTLAND's new BBC channel will begin broadcasting in February next year.

The corporation had initially announced that the BBC Scotland digital channel would begin broadcasting this autumn.

However Donalda MacKinnon, director of BBC Scotland, has said that "getting the channel right is preferable to simply getting it on air as quickly as possible".

The early 2019 launch avoids the clash of what the corporation considers to be an important launch with the festive season.

Ms MacKinnon also said that, if regulators Ofcom give a green light to the £30m channel's plans, which include an hour long evening news bulletin, then "having some additional time after final approval should be beneficial."

The broadcaster has begun recruiting for the channel, with around a dozen staff already in place.

Last month Ofcom gave a provisional go ahead to the BBC's plans for the channel.

Ms MacKinnon told staff that commissioning programmes for the channel is now "well underway" and more details would be announced soon.

She said: "In deciding when to launch, we looked at a number of options, including late autumn and around Christmas time, but we concluded that coming on air early in the New Year is the best option for us, audiences and our suppliers.

"We took into consideration programme development and production time and audience trends during holidays - especially around the crowded marketing period at Christmas.

"Getting the channel right is preferable to simply getting it on air as quickly as possible and having some additional time after final approval should be beneficial."

Pilots for the new 9pm news programme have already been shot at the corporation's Scottish headquarters at Pacific Quay.

Ms MacKinnon added: "We’ve begun the process to employ additional staff for our news programme and over the last few weeks have held recruitment events aimed at attracting diverse and skilled people from across Scotland.

"In all, we will recruit around 80 new jobs in news phased over the next few months as we get nearer to channel launch."

In an April report, Ofcom said that the new service "will deliver public value for audience" and "make a valuable contribution to the BBC's public purposes" as well as broadening the news options available to Scottish viewers.

It found that the proposal is "unlikely to have a substantial crowding out effect on competition."

The estimated amount of viewers for the channel, which will be broadcast in HD, would only be a fraction of those for other major channels, roughly double that of BBC Four's current audience.

It will broadcast between noon and midnight daily, with an hour long evening bulletin starting at 9pm.

Ofcom's final decision on whether the channel can go ahead will be announced on 11 July.

Ms MacKinnon added: "When we get the final decision from Ofcom, I would hope to be able to share more of our progress with you, including some more detail on our new commissions."