Page last updated at 08:15 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 09:15 UK

Programme spending 'cut by 13m'

BBC Scotland building
BBC Scotland said it was pumping more cash into programmes

The BBC and STV cut spending on programmes in Scotland by £13m last year, said industry watchdog Ofcom.

Spending dropped by 20% to £54m for viewers, according to a report published by the body.

Scottish Culture Minister Mike Russell said he was "extremely disappointed" with the findings.

BBC Scotland said it was reinvesting money in services following an efficiency drive, while STV insisted it was increasing original programmes.

The overall decrease, Ofcom said, included a £11m cut in areas such as comedy, drama and news, although spending on current affairs went up in Scotland by £2m - a 72% increase.

Viewers 'fed up'

Ofcom Scotland director Vicki Nash said the drop was the biggest of all four nations in the UK.

"Overall what we are concerned about, as the regulator, is to maintain the plurality of public service broadcasting," she said.

"The BBC will always be the cornerstone of public service broadcasting but we know one of the things particularly important to viewers in Scotland is they want choice."

The report also pointed out the number of hours produced by both broadcasters in Scotland increased last year to 1,743, compared to 1,699 in 2007.

Despite this, Mr Russell reiterated his call for a new Scottish digital channel, as called for by the government-backed Scottish Broadcasting Commission.

"Workers in Scottish production industries and Scottish audiences are, I believe, fed up with the repeated failure of UK broadcasters to fully honour solemn promises made to Scotland within acceptable timescales," he said.

'Taking control'

The BBC said part of the reduced spending came from there being no General Election in 2008, while less was spent on sports rights.

A BBC Scotland spokesman said the decrease in spending on Scottish output was actually just under £4m for the period, adding that the Ofcom figures failed to take into account £6.3m which had been reallocated across the service.

"We are reinvesting money into the service following an efficiency review and this will see more news, current affairs and factual programmes for Scottish viewers amounting to over £1.5m this year and rising to £3m in four years' time," said the spokesman.

A spokesman for STV, which has made the decision to drop network dramas such as The Bill, added: "STV is taking greater control of its schedule, producing more high quality original programming that is relevant to Scotland, to sit alongside network output.

"Ofcom's figures show that STV produced 15% more hours of output in 2008 than the previous year, and going forward we will continue to invest in more content for Scotland."

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