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Saturday, November 28, 1998 Published at 23:43 GMT


Scottish Six will come - news chief

The Six O'Clock News will not change - for now

The head of BBC Scotland news has said he believes that a Scottish Six O'Clock news programme will eventually get the go-ahead, despite its rejection by BBC governors.

Ken Cargill spoke at an Edinburgh conference as a poll in a Sunday newspaper suggested strong public support for a separate Six O'Clock News for Scotland.

The BBC's Media correspondent Nick Higham reports on the arguments
The BBC has decided that a London-based show will reflect the fact that Scotland will have its own parliament next year, despite calls from many, including eight senior Scottish broadcasters in a letter to national newspapers, that it needs a dedicated service.

Mr Cargill told the Future of Broadcast News in Scotland meeting that the case for the new programme will be even stronger after elections for the Scottish parliament next May.

He said: "I think the Scottish Six will come, because after 6 May the arguments will be even more understandable and even more compelling."

He added: "We could infer from the Board of Governors statement that if the BBC should keep in step with constitutional change, the Scottish Six's day will come."

Poll backs idea

The debate could be intensified by a poll for the Sunday Mail newspaper, which says that 61% of Scottish people interviewed are in favour of a Scottish Six and just 23% are against.

Support is highest among younger Scottish people, says the telephone poll, which interviewed 500 people in the last six days.

In the 25 to 34 age group 70% of people questioned were in favour and in the 18 to 24 age group 63% were in support.

Eight presenters protest

Earlier eight presenters of news and current affairs programmes on the BBC in Scotland signed a letter to national newspapers demanding their own version of the programme.

They said much of what is transmitted on the news programme from London is irrelevant to Scottish people who have their own health, education and legal system.

One of the signatories, Ian McWhirter, pointed out that future coverage of a devolved Scottish parliament on a UK-wide programme might bore viewers in England.

He said the BBC had been lobbied by cabinet ministers who feared a Scottish Six O'Clock News would encourage nationalism.

Instead, he said, the BBC had given the Scottish National Party a propaganda opportunity.

On Thursday, the BBC's head of news in Scotland joined the call for a Scottish programme. And the BBC's advisers, the Broadcasting Council, said proposals for a revamped UK-wide Six O'Clock News were totally inadequate.

Last week a BBC adviser, Professor Lindsay Patterson, resigned over the corporation's reluctance to allow Scotland to have its own Six O'Clock News.

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