It’s sometimes said that saying farewell to a long-running TV show can be like saying goodbye to a close friend. Huge audiences have mourned the ending of recent shows like Killing Eve, The Crown and Happy Valley.

Sadly, it’s a feeling few are likely to have about BBC Scotland’s news programme, The Nine, following the announcement of its cancellation earlier this week.

Dogged by low viewership from the outset, The Nine struggled to carve out its niche in an increasingly fragmented TV landscape. Though while it may be a stretch to describe it as ‘long-running’, its five-year lifespan has surpassed the expectations of many.

The decision to launch an hour-long nightly news show in a 9pm timeslot – when rival broadcasters typically air some of their most popular programming – seemed ambitious; and while the show never really found a consistent audience, it would be harsh to describe it as a failure – and, although this might seem like an odd thing to say, there are reasons to view this cancellation as a positive decision.

It's easy to forget this now, but the reception to the first episode of The Nine – before viewership figures came in – was very positive. The show opened to a mix of national and international stories, and exclusives such as an excellent investigation into the drugs trade by Social Affairs correspondent Chris Clements – highlighting the show’s potential as a venue for exciting public-interest journalism with the hour-long run time allowing stories to be more rounded and more comprehensive than other news programmes.

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The opening credits – packed with real footage of ordinary people across Scotland – set the tone for what the show aimed to be. This was Scotland’s news show. Despite the odd technical problem – completely excusable for a new, live television broadcast – this was a good programme.

Sadly, it became clear very quickly that few people were watching it. If it had launched in 2009 rather than 2019, it may have had a chance of succeeding; but as it was, it arrived on our screens with an expiry date – albeit one that none of us knew at the time. When it emerged recently that an episode of The Nine was watched by just 1,700 people, it seemed clear that its end date was nearer than ever before. When the BBC announces it was to be cancelled, it was far from surprising.

Yet The Nine’s impact can be felt across the BBC. The show proved a valuable training ground for exciting young journalists – reporters like David Wallace Lockhart, Connor Gillies, Hope Webb and Hazel Martin – some of whom cut their teeth in radio, but managed to use the show as a platform to become mainstays on Reporting Scotland, UK-wide news broadcasts and widely-praised documentaries. Presenters such as Amy Irons were given breathing room through the format, letting them show what they were capable of.

Journalism on The Nine remained strong throughout, with investigative reporting that ended up being featured on all BBC platforms. Stories that may not have even existed, had it not been for this show. When we look back at The Nine’s legacy – we are looking at a show that provided opportunities for new talent and for journalists to set the news agenda. While The Nine itself may not have found a large audience, its reporting and reporters will have been seen by many.

The Herald: The NineThe Nine (Image: free)

So what of the future? The Nine is being replaced – pending Ofcom approval – by a 30-minute news show airing on BBC Scotland at 7pm. BBC Scotland’s The Seven – essentially, ‘The Weekend Nine’, but airing at 7pm, has faced an even greater struggle to find an audience; with some recent episodes being viewed by just a few hundred people. Time will tell if this rebranded venture succeeds, but it is a challenging proposition. The Beeb will also launch a topical affairs podcast series on BBC Sounds, iPlayer and on television. Depending on how this looks, this may have a greater chance of success. BBC podcasts have proven to be popular, with output being of a high quality. We will also see the BBC Debate Night programme expand by six episodes.

The most controversial announcement of all may be the increased investment in online news; with any growth having a potential knock-on effect on independent local news outlets; many of which already face an uncertain future. On the other hand, news that there will be no job losses should be welcomed. The Nine’s low viewership should certainly not be viewed as a damning verdict against the talented team that brings the show together.

From a programme makers' perspective, its cancellation brings opportunities. BBC Scotland’s problem is not so much The Nine itself, as it is what it does to the rest of the schedule. 9pm is a much-coveted slot, yet BBC Scotland programme makers have been denied it ever since the channel launched. The scheduling team at BBC One realised this a long time ago, when they moved their 9pm news to 10pm. It was clear they knew this decision would cause a fuss. I remember hearing that the graphics team behind the News at 10 title sequence were told it was for an international client – such was the secrecy behind the move. But it proved to be a shrewd decision, and I suspect this will be the case here, freeing up a premium timeslot for programme makers to pitch innovative ideas.

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The Nine has played its part in shaping Scotland’s broadcast landscape. The show may not have cut through to a mass audience, but they’ll have seen its journalism, and they’ll know many of its reporters through sister news programming. While they may not notice its disappearance, they may well notice the shows that replace it – and, indeed, its legacy. BBC Scotland can continue to develop new talent and new formats through the vacated timeslot, and new journalists can continue to emerge through its restructured news output. There’s every reason to view this as less of a cancellation, and more a positive change in direction.

Paul Tucker is senior lecturer in Broadcast Production at University of the West of Scotland. Paul is also an experienced TV producer and director