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Thursday, December 10, 1998 Published at 21:00 GMT


UK

Scottish and Welsh voice disappointment

BBC Scotland will not have its own six o'clock news

Politicians and broadcasters in Scotland and Wales have generally voiced anger and disappointment at the BBC governors' decision not to allow Scottish and Welsh news programmes.

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

BBC Scotland controller John McCormick also said he was disappointed but welcomed the 10m investment in news and current affairs programmes.

'Window dressing'

The Scottish Nationalist Party condemned the proposals as "window dressing".

SNP 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.

"This could well represent the twilight for the BBC in Scotland, because viewers will simply exercise consumer choice with their remote controls."

'Fix-up'

Scottish Liberal Democrats also reacted angrily, describing the governors' decision as a "classic London establishment fix-up".

Liberal Democrat MP Ray Michie said: "No amount of fine words about increased investment or programme enhancements can disguise the reality of a control freak tendency which lies behind this.

"At an early stage, the Scottish Parliament must summon John Birt and Sir Christopher Bland to explain themselves."

Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, David McLetchie, said the BBC had failed to satisfy the aspirations of its staff in Scotland and the Scottish people.

He said: "A recent poll showed that nearly two-thirds of those taking part favoured real changes to the format of the national 6pm news and Reporting Scotland at 6.30pm.

"By failing to listen to those voices and those of its own staff, I fear they may be making a grave mistake as this could well lead to a rift between London and Scotland - a rift none of us sought and one which will only be welcomed by the separatists of the SNP."

Welsh dismay

Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Wigley MP, among those supporting calls for a Wales-based version of the Six O'Clock News, said he was disappointed the Board had not agreed the move.

After the setting up of the Welsh Assembly, news reports produced from London must reflect the key policy differences on matters such as health and education, he pointed out.

"It's going to be a mighty challenge for London to get out a balanced news bulletin that is accurate for Wales and Scotland."

Not all gloom

Despite these views, there was generally a much more positive response in Wales.

BBC Wales Controller, Geraint Talfan Davies, said the extra 6m investment for programmes was "hugely welcome" and would provide "the widest bridge between the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh public".

"We're looking forward to working with our network colleagues to ensure that the Six O'Clock News reflects Wales to the rest of the UK."





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