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Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 11:04 GMT


BBC rejects Scottish Six

Pressure had grown for a Scottish six o'clock bulletin

Is the BBC right about a Scottish Six?

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BBC governors have rejected a request to give Scotland its own Six O'Clock News television bulletin.

Media correspondent Nick Higham: "A situation in which the BBC couldn't win"
Instead they announced an extra £20m to be spent on new jobs and programme-making in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - to reflect the devolution of political power away from Westminster.

In a statement, the governors said the proposals reflect a real advance on those originally put forward by BBC management.

[ image: Baroness Young defends decision]
Baroness Young defends decision
The deputy chairman of the BBC, Baroness Young, said: "We firmly believe that what we are trying to do is achieve effective coverage of devolved issues within devolved countries, but also effective coverage of the four nations as part of the UK."

But governors were split over the issue. Speaking at a news conference, the BBC Governor for Scotland, Reverend Norman Drummond, said he was in favour of what has been labelled a "Scottish Six" programme.

The Broadcasting Council for Scotland said it was "deeply disappointed" and pledged to continue to fight for a Scottish news programme.

Scottish anger

All three opposition parties in Scotland also condemned the decision.

Scottish Nationalist Party parliamentary broadcasting spokeswoman Roseanna Cunningham said: "As far as the 'Scottish Six' is concerned, it isn't a question of 'if', but 'when'.

"All that this decision means is that the BBC governors will be dragged kicking and screaming by the pace of events post-devolution towards a 'Scottish Six', rather than showing an ability to rise to the challenge now.

Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar acknowledged that many people would be disappointed, but said the decision "was rightly made".

"The whole basis of the system under which we operate is that politicians should not interfere in broadcasters' decisions on programme policy," he said.

Mounting pressure

Pressure has grown for a separate programme in recent months.

[ image: BBC Scotland will get an extra £10m]
BBC Scotland will get an extra £10m
Many people in Scotland feel strongly that the country should have its own dedicated news programme with national, UK and international news for a Scottish audience.

They argue that many stories in the UK bulletins have no relevance for Scotland because of its separate legal, education and health systems - and the situation will only get worse once Scotland has its own parliament.

The row over the programme intensified in November when a BBC adviser, Professor Lindsay Patterson, resigned over the corporation's reluctance to allow Scotland to have its own Six O'Clock News.

This was followed by a group of eight presenters of news and current affairs programmes on the BBC in Scotland who signed a letter to national newspapers demanding their own version of the six o'clock programme.

And at the end of November the head of BBC Scotland news joined the chorus in favour of a separate programme.

Speaking after the decision, the former adviser, Lindsay Patterson said the BBC had failed to understand the depth of feeling in Scotland.

He warned: "This decision will politicise the BBC to an even greater extent and cause the BBC far greater problems than it has ever had before in Scotland.

"The BBC itself will become part of the election campaign for the Scottish general election next May - that's a very bad prospect for the BBC."

The governors' package of proposals:

  • Another £20m into BBC news coverage - £10m in Scotland, £6m in Wales and £5m in Northern Ireland.

  • More staff will be appointed - about 50 in Scotland, 40 in Wales and 30 in Northern Ireland

  • Scotland will also get a new Outside Broadcast unit, providing coverage of the new Scottish Parliament.

  • New devolved bulletins on BBC2 and BBC Choice

  • A review in one year's time.

Is the BBC right about a Scottish six?

Click here to send us your views.

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10 Dec 98†|†UK
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