It’s all change, again, at BBC Scotland. Five years after the launch of The Nine and Seven Days on its new channel, BBC Scotland has put both programmes, with their low viewing figures, through the shredder.

The announcement by Gary Smith, BBC Scotland’s head of news and current affairs, was a sad read. I have appeared regularly on both The Nine and, in the past, Seven Days. They are perfectly solid current affairs offerings with good presenters and, in most cases, a choice of guests able to provide the audience with decent insight. However, marooned at channel 115 on the electronic programme guide, squeezed between Sky’s big-ticket entertainment shows and repeats of Love Island on ITV2, and, at 9pm, a news programme trying to hang tough with drama and comedy, a programme like The Nine never really stood a chance.

The replacement for The Nine is to be a 30-minute news programme, on the same channel, at 7pm. This programme is to cover Scottish, British and international news, which sounds an awful lot like Reporting Scotland, a 30-minute news programme covering Scottish, British and international news, on BBC1 Scotland at 6.30pm.

I cannot be the only observer who greeted this with little more than an eye-roll; it is a stretch to envisage how the new programme can succeed where The Nine failed. Those who are minded to watch live evening news on a television set can choose a Scottish (STV) or British (BBC) offering at 6pm, and another Scottish (BBC) or British (ITV) show at 6.30pm. For the masochists who want more, the new BBC Scotland news programme will have to beat Channel 4 News, which is much closer on the electronic programme guide, and indeed Sky News and the other 24-hour outlets.

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It seems doomed to another failure. I hope I am wrong; there are many good people working at BBC Scotland, in front of the camera and behind it. This is an uncertain and, probably, demoralising time for them and, at a human level, one should feel for them. Good people need the right environment in order to perform at their best, and it could hardly be said that this environment exists.

There is, I cannot help but feel, a cleaner and better way to fix the omnipresent problem at BBC Scotland news and current affairs, as well as many of the other controversies which plague the BBC, and that is to make it operate on the same commercial basis as every other media outlet.

It is cringingly anachronistic, deep into a 21st century which has given us dozens of television news channels and sports channels, hundreds of entertainment channels, dozens of credible podcasts and other online current affairs platforms and several global streaming platforms, that we fund the BBC not by choice but by compulsion.

In the 20th century, this could be justified by the national belief that we needed the BBC. That was probably true when we had four television channels and a transistor radio, with the BBC the only organisation sufficiently funded to provide us with news, sport and documentaries, but those days are long, long in the past.

We may still want the BBC, but we no longer need it. And, should we want it, we will pay for it as we do for every other outlet (for the record, I would).

The benefit of a fully commercialised BBC would be significantly greater than the £13.25 per month which is currently removed from our bank accounts. In Scotland, in particular, the BBC provides a substantial barrier to a more plural news market. Against all odds, STV News continues to outperform its BBC competitor, as ratings consistently show. However, we should consider the duopoly insufficient for a modern country, and the truth is that the substantial funding BBC Scotland receives from the TV-taxpayer deters other potential providers from entering the market.

The news market is similarly distorted off-screen. Only around one-quarter of people source their news from the printed press or its associated websites and apps, and the BBC is a large part of the reason why. Scotland’s newspapers, to a far greater degree than their equivalents based in London, have experienced a double-headed struggle, both to hold on to their readers and to switch them from hard-copy newspapers to websites or apps.

The Herald: The Nine will soon be no moreThe Nine will soon be no more (Image: BBC)

The BBC has, I am quite sure unintentionally, played a key role in the suppression of the press. As news has moved away from live TV, and away from the morning newspaper, to online platforms, it has proved all too easy to navigate to the "free" but exceptionally well-resourced rather than agreeing to pay a newspaper, like the one you are reading now, a subscription.

The content you are reading now, and throughout this newspaper, is unavailable anywhere else, and certainly unavailable on the BBC, but convincing people to part with cash for something theypreceive to be available elsewhere for no extra cost is not an altogether straightforward task. If you go to your local high street on a Friday night and you have a choice between the pub with ‘"free" beer, and the pub where you have to pay for it, which one are you going to choose?

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This is, arguably, even truer for local news than for Scottish national news. In the past, if I wanted to keep pace with current events in my native Western Isles, I had to have the Stornoway Gazette sent to me. Logically, the modern-day equivalent would be for me to pay the Stornoway Gazette to deliver my news digitally, online or through a quality, funded app. However, in truth, it is all too easy to simply navigate to the islands section of the BBC website and pick up most of the goings-on from there.

The end of the licence fee would be a shot in the arm for the independent press across Scotland. However it would also, almost inevitably, improve the BBC. An organisation acting commercially would, almost inevitably, lead to better decision-making and more popular programming. It would have to; a commercial news provider simply cannot afford to keep getting it wrong.

A sharper BBC and more choice outside the BBC; that sounds like the right outcome to me.