STEVE Carson looks fairly assured for a man whose new television channel has broadcast more than 20 programmes which have been watched by no one.

The Ulsterman launched the new BBC Scotland channel six months ago amidst a flurry of hard questioning; did Scotland need a new digital channel? Was the £32m budget a sop to keep the Nationalists at bay? Could a dedicated nightly news programme avoid collapse under the weight of parochiality?

READ MORE: The Edinburgh Show, BBC Scotland, episode one

Today, in a quiet office at BBC’s Pacific Quay, former indie producer Carson, seems, if anything, more confident than he was when speaking from the same seat back in February. “It’s been full on, but it’s been generally brilliant,” he says of the story so far, in ebullient voice. “To see it all come together and to see the creative sector in Scotland rise to the occasion has been great.”

He pauses and grins: “There have been some moments when our hearts have been in our mouths, but that’s a good thing. You see, we could have taken a less risky route, given viewers more of what they’re used to but I’m glad we didn’t do that.”

What of the watching numbers, Steve? Some didn’t add up to a hill of beans. “Well, quite a lot of the figures quoted were for one-minute programmes called The Seven, which BARB can’t measure,” he says, going on to point out the other 12 programmes were broadcast after 11pm, when all channel audiences are in sharp decline.

Yet, didn’t the Nine, the news programme with a £7m budget and a staff of 80 journalists, get close to zero as well at one point? “The Nine is a good programme and is appreciated by its audience,” says the boss of all things BBC Scotland. “But I get it that people are looking for the bad news.”

Come on, surely the news is that the numbers speak for themselves, Steve? “Yes, but in a news programme you won’t get people who watch it all the way through.” He deliberates. “Look, it’s a strong show, with original journalism. And it does take a while to grow an audience but 200,00 are tuning in across the week. The Nine fits our brief perfectly. And reach is really important.”

BBC Scotland use reach (the amount of people who tune in during the week) and share (calculated by the number of TV sets tuned to a particular channel during a given period of time) stats to describe performance, rather than illuminate numbers on a show in a given night. “We’ve had a reach basically on a par with Channel Five, which is great,” he enthuses. “Digital channels just don’t go near the terrestrial channels. Our share is 2.8 per cent. Channel Five is 4.1 per cent. And to be the biggest digital channel in Scotland (beating off Sky, E4, ITV2) from the get-go is really good.” He adds in delighted voice: “Sky’s marketing budget is as high as their broadcasting budget. And we’ve also brought in the 16-34 audience, which is the hardest to reach at all.”

Carson however takes criticism of individual programmes on the chin. “Listening to criticism is part of it. Then you sort out the signal from the noise. But the important thing is what the audiences are saying. We track that closely and we know Scotland is a tough audience. But two months ago the panel research came back and the comment on the channel was ‘It’s not as sh*** as we thought.’” He laughs, acknowledging that in Scottish terms this is praise indeed.

Carson quotes some of the shows which hit the sweet spot. And there’s little doubt some of the documentary programmes have captured the public imagination, such as Rolls Royce/Chilean connection Nae Pasaran and The Central Station and the Murder Case investigations documentary series. “We wanted to have a different take, to use first-time directors, and remember we’ve come from a standing start.”

Yet, he knows how important it’s been to boost viewing figures with the screenings of the likes of River City and Still Game in advance of BBC1 outings? “Yes, it was hugely important but it was three hours of content over six weeks and the channel performance has largely sustained.”

But how will he contend with the immense PR value Kiernan and Hemphill’s comedy brought to the station? “I don’t know if we’ll ever have another Still Game. Ford and Greig are geniuses and they hit on something I love, with a wide demographic. The boys are so talented. Whatever projects we can do with them in the future will be fantastic.”

READ MORE: Fresh row as BBC respond to SNP complaints over Question Time

Does this signal new TV comedy from the pair coming our way? Could be. He does expand on the work of Rab Florence of Burnistoun fame, and developing new comedy. Carson also heralds A View From the Terracing as a great example of original content. “One of their first pitches was to do Arbroath versus Airdrieonians – in the style of Wes Anderson. No other channel would have commissioned that but it was a great piece and it went down a storm on social media.”

The new BBC Scotland channel is attracting investment, with co-commissions growing. But how can you continue to attract vibrant, talented production companies if all they are offered is £10k for half an hour of television? “Well, what I would say to independents is we have some tariffs which are for hundreds of thousands of pounds per hour and some late night shows’ rates are lower. But we will help develop formats and we will bring in other money from other broadcasters and the likes of Screen Scotland. We’ve brought in £6.3m to Scotland which is part of the content success story.”

What has he learned in the past six months? “I’ve learned that anything broadcast between seven and eight o’clock just got run over. That’s when the soaps and the One Show are at their peak. So we focus on the eight to eleven area and then the more experimental shows later on.”

Does this mean the seven-eight slot is simply surrendered to Corrie and Alex and Matt on the One Show? “We’ll do reruns at the slot, and that’s fine because every channel has to pick its targets.

“After eleven, we’re not looking for big audiences but we’re doing shows such as Up For It, youth programmes, which gives people a start. We chose to be experimental. We don’t want to play safe. We have to add to the sum of human knowledge.”

It’s easy to pick targets. Asian Weddings, to some, was fatuous but Carson argues it did have its place. “Asian Weddings did decent numbers and it will be recommissioned but you have to remember most digital channels are super niche. I wanted to create a channel for all of Scotland. But then you have to ask what holds this channel together. The organising principal in our case is modern Scotland. Some of it won’t be to your taste. But I’m pleased quite a lot of the new shows have stuck.”

Carson speaks at length about the value of comedy. He knows Scotland loves a laugh and is keen to develop a comedy platform, “with short stuff on our BBC Scotland Facebook page, space on the channel for experimental comedy, radio comedy and iPlayer commissions. Mainstream sitcom is something our audiences expect from us.”

But many weren’t laughing at the perceived political chicanery behind the new station. Is there still a residual feeling that the new channel was offered up by London as a means of quelling Nationalist rebellion? “We’re not here for any political party,” he says in serious voice. “What I will say is we get complaints from every political party in Scotland on a regular basis.” He smiles. To upset every faction and coalition signals a form of success.

Carson feels he has much to be excited about. The new channel will be launching its new drama, Guilt, written by Neil Forsyth. “The new content looks really attractive such as Emily Sande’s Street Symphony and the likes of Arctic Academy, which takes young, ordinary schoolkids off on a polar expedition."

He adds: “On launch night there were a lot of eyes on us, not necessarily wishing us the best,” he says with a wry grin. “But I’m glad we took the chances we did.”

So he’s still enjoying life being the god of all BBC television in Scotland? Or is he desperate to flop onto his Aer Lingus seat at the weekend? “I don’t come into work whistling every day,” he says, smiling. “But if you can’t be motivated by the idea of creating new programmes every day then you’re in the wrong job.”