Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 17:39 UK

Report a 'disconcerting experience'

By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland, arts correspondent

TV studio
Viewers want to see more analysis on television

The latest report from the Scottish Broadcasting Commission.

"Anyone know what this is about?" asked the man from the Scotsman.

It's the sort of question we all ask at the start of news conferences, but a bizarre one when in fact, the answer was us.

Friday's report from the Scottish Broadcasting Commission - the third and final one to be published - was about us, the people who make the news.

It's a disconcerting experience - more so, since only a handful of journalists seemed to want to hear the results of the Commission's latest foray into the state of the home-grown industry.

The headlines? That TV was the main source of news for most of the people surveyed, with newspapers, radio and online lagging behind.

Of course, like all surveys, it depends on who you ask and it'll be interesting to compare this report's findings with the survey commissioned by the BBC Trust from Professor Anthony King.

Can online news - regarded by many as the great hope for the industry - really be the main source of news for a paltry 13-18 per cent of respondents?

Dumb-down danger

The figures may give hope to TV news - in Scottish news terms, a two horse race between BBC Scotland and STV - but there are concerns.

Viewers don't like everything they see - in particular they find Scottish news obsessed with crime and sport.

There are also concerns about the reporting of UK wide issues in post-devolution Scotland.

Equally, TV news editors dumb-down at their peril. These viewers are discerning. They want more analysis, not less.

Without prompting, programmes like Newsnight Scotland and Eorpa, were cited as examples of the sort of programming they wanted to see more of.

In the case of Eorpa, not for its Gaelic content, but as a rare programme which places Scotland in a European context.

They have to prove they're not just a talking shop for those who make TV, or indeed watch it

The biggest issue for viewers though was choice. They wanted more, not less.

Along the Scottish Border, they were particularly concerned about plans for a merger between Border TV and Tynetees - an issue currently being reviewed by ITV and Ofcom.

SMG plc has its own problems and says without money to plug a funding gap, their ability to compete with the BBC in news and current affairs is under threat.

'Outside London'

It's already asking the Broadcasting Commission to lobby for guaranteed public funding for the services on its two Scottish licences.

So the Scottish Broadcasting Commission has work to do - and not just in summarising its recommendations for the first minister, who commissioned it in the first place.

They have to prove they're not just a talking shop for those who make TV, or indeed watch it.

Already there are some signs that its evidence is being listened to.

After an earlier report which suggested programme makers were mislabelling programmes, to up the quota of work produced in the regions, this week the BBC Trust announced it would no longer label network productions as Scottish or Welsh, but use the Ofcom definition "outside London".

'Lack of depth' in broadcasting
30 May 08 |  Scotland

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