THE BBC has leapt to the defence of its new Scottish channel after it emerged official viewing figures of its flagship show have shrunk to just 1% of its launch audience.

The Nine's audience has slumped from 752,000 when the hour-long show first aired in February, 2019 to just 4000, on two occasions in October and November.

About £7 million of the channel's £32 million budget is thought to be allocated to news.

The broadcaster's Scottish director Donalda MacKinnon announced her resignation last week.

HeraldScotland:

When she was appointed in 2016, she became the broadcaster's first female director north of the border.

Scottish Conservative spokesman Maurice Golden said of the decline: "The BBC Scotland TV channel is supported with a huge budget and a massive and experienced team, but unfortunately their viewing figures have continued to decline to pretty shockingly low levels.

"Licence fee payers would be right to question why so much money is being spent on such a tiny audience."

READ MORE: Herald on Sunday letters: what readers are talking about this week

But the BBC defended its record, saying: “BBC Scotland has been watched by 825,000 every week since launch, which is above the BBC’s own projections. Channel programmes received five BAFTA Scotland awards just months after it launched.

“Overall, the channel is adding a more socially diverse audience to the BBC portfolio and requests to view BBC Scotland programmes on the iPlayer have risen 125% to more than 62 million in 2019.”

Ms MacKinnon oversaw the creation of the BBC Scotland channel and its flagship news programme The Nine, which has been dogged with over low ratings. 

HeraldScotland:

Her departure, scheduled for this autumn, comes a month after Lord Hall confirmed he was to step down as BBC director-general in the summer.

In October last year, media watchdog Ofcom said some satisfaction ratings with the corporation in Scotland are the lowest in Britain.

In 2017, Mrs MacKinnon, who earned about £180,000 a year, shared a platform with Lord Hall as they announced plans for the new channel, the largest single investment in BBC services in Scotland.

She told staff: "Since then, we have all worked hard to deliver on our commitment to audiences in Scotland, and we have succeeded."

READ MORE: BBC Question Time in racism row after sharing anti-migrant rant

The Ofcom annual report on the BBC for 2018-19 said "people in Scotland continue to rate the BBC less favourably than people in the other nations".

HeraldScotland:

Only 39 per cent of respondents to an Ofcom survey in Scotland rated the BBC highly for providing a "good range of programmes and content that represents where I live" - the lowest in the UK.

Just over one in three (36 per cent) gave the BBC a high rating for programming which featured an 'authentic portrayal of the region where I live' - again the UK's lowest rating, down from 37 per cent the previous year.

But there was a rise in people giving a high rating to the statement the BBC was producing an "authentic portrayal of people like me", from 39 to 42 per cent.

The Nine is not the only show to suffer audience slumps.

The quiz show WonderBall, fronted by Catriona Shearer, flopped, with viewing figures falling from 14,000 on launch night in March last year to just over 1,000 the next day.

HeraldScotland:

One of the early highlights was a rerun of the 1980s drama series Tutti Frutti. The opening episode, on March 2 last year, was watched by 89,500 viewers.

Another successful production was Guilt, an Edinburgh-based four-part black comedy-drama starring Mark Bonnar and Jamie Sives, and written by Neil Forsyth.