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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2007, 17:48 GMT 18:48 UK
Commission looks at broadcasting
BBC television studio
Mr Salmond criticised Scottish programme commissioning
First Minister Alex Salmond has announced a commission to look into Scottish broadcasting.

He called for the Scottish Parliament to be given powers over the area, currently reserved to Westminster.

The UK government warned that creating a "Scottish Broadcasting Corporation" was a backward-looking proposal.

Blair Jenkins, a former head of news at BBC Scotland, will chair the commission on which former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish will also serve.

Speaking at an event at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, the first minister said the commission would have a broad remit and would combine "substantial industry experience with a broad spectrum of political opinion".

Denying Scots access to the world's most respected broadcaster by creating a parochial and narrow Scottish Broadcasting Corporation is a backward-looking proposal
David Cairns
Scotland Office minister

Mr Salmond said the long-running debate over a separate BBC six o'clock news programme for Scotland was only "shorthand" for a much wider debate which had to be conducted.

He said the most pressing issue was a dramatic cut in television production in Scotland in recent years and described the industry's desire to see the BBC and STV spending 9% of their budgets in Scotland as a "floor not a ceiling".

The first minister also criticised television chiefs for claiming an average spend of 3% was due to a lack of talent and ideas.

Mr Salmond said: "It was a previous BBC director general, Greg Dyke, who championed the cause of greater ethnic diversity at the BBC, an organisation which he famously and controversially once described as hideously white.

"It's not just whether the BBC is hideously white but whether it's also still hideously White City, believing that talent and wisdom reside only in West London."

Mr Salmond also said he would be seeking meetings with the main UK broadcasters in a bid to "reverse the steep decline" in network spending on Scottish productions.

"We want to ensure editorial and creative control is exercised in Scotland on behalf of Scottish audiences," he said.

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond raised concern over cuts in TV production

Earlier at the event, the broadcaster and actress Elaine C Smith claimed Scotland was not well served by current broadcasting arrangements.

But David Cairns, minister of state at the Scotland Office, said Mr Salmond was "clearly out of touch".

"Denying Scots access to the world's most respected broadcaster by creating a parochial and narrow Scottish Broadcasting Corporation is a backward-looking proposal which will command little public support," he said.

Mr Cairns said he had sought assurances on an increase in Scottish programming "from the highest levels of the BBC in Scotland".

Scottish Tory culture spokesman Ted Brocklebank said there was a legitimate concern that Scotland was not getting a fair share of national broadcast funding.

However, Mr Brocklebank, a former Grampian Television head of news and current affairs, said: "Nobody is fooled by Alex Salmond's demand that the Scottish Parliament be given a regulatory role over broadcasting, whilst having no control over editorial policy.

"Influencing editorial policy is precisely the ultimate goal of the separatists."

'Major investment'

Liberal Democrat culture spokesman Iain Smith MSP welcomed the prospect of a serious debate about the future of broadcasting in Scotland.

But he warned: "It is, however, important to recognise the considerable advantages that Scotland has from access to the BBC and other UK-wide broadcasters."

A spokesman for BBC Scotland said it welcomed any debate on broadcasting as it believed it already contributed significantly to the Scottish economy.

He said: "We are about to open our new 188m state-of-the-art headquarters at Pacific Quay in Glasgow - the most sophisticated digital production centre in Europe - and it will benefit not just BBC Scotland but the entire broadcasting industry.

"Our Network TV commissions are set to increase with 50m investment forecast for the coming year and further growth planned for 2008/2009, while our overall investment for Scottish output remains strong.

"The decision to make this major investment is a sign of the BBC's confidence in the strength and ability of the creative community in Scotland."

The spokesman said BBC Scotland worked closely with local theatre companies, with a new radio drama studio within Pacific Quay, and was developing new comedy writing.

Alex Salmond announces the commission

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