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Wednesday, January 20, 1999 Published at 03:34 GMT

UK Politics

BBC 'not pressured' over Scottish Six

The BBC is independent in all "programming matters"

No political pressure was applied to the BBC over its decision not to make a separate version of the Six O'Clock News for Scotland, says the government.

Labour peer Lord McIntosh of Haringey told peers during Lords Questions the government had no discussions with BBC governors over a Scottish-based 6pm news bulletin.

He said: "Within the framework of the Royal Charter and the government's agreement with the BBC, the corporation is independent in all programming matters."

But the decision against a "Scottish Six" has been widely criticised by politicians, broadcasters, and broadcasting watchdogs, who say the BBC's decision to create 50 new jobs and spend an extra £10m on Scottish news programming is not enough.

The calls for a Scottish Six are being made as Scotland prepares itself for the opening of its new parliament later this year.

New contract

The denial of government pressure falls on the same day as the BBC won the contract to televise the new Scottish Parliament, which is due to take up its powers from July.

Tory peer Lord Selkirk of Douglas said the future programming of the Scottish Parliament should be left to the BBC free of "political interference".

Lord McIntosh replied: "I don't think there has ever been any question of political interference with the professionals in the BBC for the Scottish Parliament or for any other parliament."

[ image: Lord Mackay:
Lord Mackay: "Amazed" that TV cannot be separate
Tory constitutional spokesman Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish said it was "amazing" BBC Radio in Scotland could do a UK and Scottish radio programme in the morning to replace Today and PM and "yet somehow or another TV cannot".

Lord Mackay asked: "Is it not time the government and the BBC understood the consequences of their policy of devolution?"

The decision not to have a Scottish Six is not final, and the BBC will be reviewing the policy by May 2000, by which time the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly will have been under way for almost a year.

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