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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 12:44 GMT
'Scottish Six' idea dropped
John McCormick: "High level of satisfaction"
BBC Scotland will not pursue the idea of a "Scottish Six" news programme following a major review of output.

At a series of public meetings and in a poll, viewers said they were happy with the present Reporting Scotland format.

In the survey of 1,090 people, 45% said they were in favour of the status quo while 38% wanted an integrated hour of national and international news produced in Scotland.

Another 17% said they had no view. BBC Scotland controller John McCormick welcomed the results of the review.

"This is the most comprehensive review ever undertaken into our journalism and the key finding is a high level of satisfaction with the range of programmes we provide," he said.

Survey findings
45% favour present 6pm-7pm format
38% want 'Scottish Six'
81% want local tv news
57% want local radio news
60% want Scottish headlines on News 24
"At the same time it gives us a number of pointers as to how we can strengthen and develop our output and we'll now address these in the year ahead."

However, the Scottish National Party is tabling a special motion in the Commons attacking the decision.

Its Westminster leader Alex Salmond described the announcement as "disastrous".

The party accused the corporation of running scared of the government, claiming the BBC did not want another confrontation.

"The Scottish Six offers the only format to enable viewers in Scotland to receive a proper blend of Scottish, UK and international stories on television - in exactly the same way as already happens on BBC Radio Scotland," said SNP spokesman Pete Wishart MP.

"Instead of the campaign of misinformation pursued by Labour, the Scottish Six easily commands support - 70% Scots backed it during the last review, when Blair and Birt scuppered it."

News 24 still
News 24, where viewers want to see more from Scotland
But BBC Scotland's head of news and current affairs, Blair Jenkins, said the views of the public mattered the most.

"I've always thought that editorially there was a stronger argument for integrating television news than for not doing it.

"But I've never been in any doubt that the key determinant in any decision ought to be what the audiences are telling us."

The survey also found many people wanted more interactive "on demand" options which could provide viewers with additional Scottish news on News 24.

Audiences also wanted political programmes which focused on review rather than procedure and included direct questioning of politicians by members of the public.

On television and radio, there is an increased expectation that the BBC, which has 11 staffed centres across Scotland, should provide richer coverage of local or regional news in addition to its national news service.

Regional service

The review's final report says: "The unexpectedly high demand for local news on tv and radio was one of the key messages to emerge... and BBC Scotland will examine how it might provide a stronger regional news service considering the options for all services - radio, television and online."

BBC Radio Scotland news output was also highly appreciated by its listeners, although awareness of its programmes needed to be increased, particularly among younger listeners and those in the south of Scotland.

"The first task must be to extend listening further into existing audience segments by promotion and cross-trailing, then to appeal to a younger and more female demographic through editorial and presentation and targeted promotion," the report goes on.

Overall, satisfaction with output on television, radio and online was high, with respondents saying that BBC Scotland news and current affairs programmes were vital for the health of Scottish society and democracy.

BBC Scotland said the survey showed strong appreciation of the current range of programmes.

'No demand for change'

Among regular Newsnight viewers, 74% said they wanted the current format to stay as it is. Only 8% wanted the Scottish opt-out dropped altogether.

Newsnight Scotland is to continue in its current slot.

The former deputy Scottish Secretary, George Foulkes, said he and his Labour colleagues feared that Scotland would have become "parochial and inward-looking" if the Scottish Six proposal had gone ahead.

The Shadow Scottish Secretary, Peter Duncan, also welcomed the findings.

The Tory MP said there was "no demand" for a change and that the current format gave a fair reflection to Scottish issues.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay
"BBC Scotland insists there's been no political interference"



SEE ALSO:
MSPs have say over broadcasting
04 Feb 02  |  Scotland
'Scottish Six' back on the agenda
23 Jan 02  |  Scotland
BBC rejects Scottish Six
13 Dec 98  |  UK News


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