Memorandum submitted by BBC Scotland (PDB
BBC Scotland provides the country's most comprehensive
and wide-ranging news and current affairs coverage across radio,
television and online in both English and Gaelic.
Our news operation forms a key part of the world's
largest newsgathering organisation.
Our flagship Reporting Scotland is currently
Scotland's most popular early evening news programme, while BBC
Radio Scotland is the country's most popular radio station, reaching
around a million listeners a week.
The annual budget for News and Current Affairs
is over £20 million. 150 journalists work on everything from
community news on BBC Radio Orkney to major investigations for
BBC One Scotland's Frontline Scotland and UK-wide output.
Since devolution, BBC news teams in Scotland
and London have worked more closely together. Daily editorial
conferences, and a permanent base in Glasgow for producers and
reporters working for UK news programmes, have contributed to
greater understanding of the differing needs of audiences in Scotland
and across the UK.
In the context of political coverage, BBC newsgathering
has been strengthened, ensuring greater coherence in coverage
of parliamentary activity in Edinburgh, London and Brussels. Audience
research indicates that, in line with our long-term ambition,
we have made progress in developing the audience in Scotland for
intelligent, accessible coverage of news and current affairs across
the range of BBC services.
New programmes introduced since 1999 have established
good audiences, while audiences for existing programmes have increased.
In the 6-7pm news hour the BBC and
ITV offerings go head to head. While the pattern of audiences
varies, the BBC is currently emerging as the stronger. In the
last three months (August-October 2001), the average audiences
have been: BBC Six O'Clock News460,000; Reporting
Scotland500,000; ITV Regional News Programmes403,000;
ITN at 6.30435,000.
The Reporting Scotland figure
represents a 32 per cent share of those viewing (ie nearly a third
of the total number of people watching television at that time).
The combination of Newsnight
and Newsnight Scotland regularly delivers audiences in
excess of 100,000. On occasions, Newsnight Scotlandin
its later, post 11pm slotcan increase the audience it inherits
from the networked section of the programme despite the fact that
the total viewing audience can decline by an average of around
22 per cent between 10.30 pm and 11.00 pm. In the period from
1st October to 15th November, Newsnight Scotland audiences
ranged from 56,000 to 189,000 while the networked section of Newsnight
delivered audiences ranging from 68,000 to 225,000 in Scotland.
On 8 November, the resignation of Henry McLeish was reported in
a 50-minute edition of Newsnight Scotland, replacing the
network programme, which attracted about 140,000 viewers, above
the average for the programme.
the live Parliamentary coverage in
Holyrood Live is appreciated by sizeable audiences, occasionally
rising to over 100,000 in the middle of the afternoon, with audiences
peaking for major occasions such as Budget Day at Westminster.
Radio Scotland has a weekly reach
of about a million listeners.
BBC News Online Scotland attracts
about 1.6 million page impressions every month, with tens of thousands
of users accessing special background material on events such
as the General Election campaign and the foot and mouth epidemic.
BBC News and Current Affairs Broadcasting in
Scotland since devolution
1.1 It was immediately obvious after the
referendum result in September 1997 that the UK was about to undergo
a process of profound constitutional change which would impact
significantly on news and current affairs broadcasting at the
BBC. The creation of a new Parliament in Scotland with responsibility
for Scottish domestic issues would require a substantial response
by programme makers. Senior editorial and managerial figures from
BBC News, Policy and Planning, BBC Scotland, Northern Ireland
and Wales began to meet regularly to determine the strategic response
to devolution and to plan in detail how the new challenges should
1.2 It was recognised that, while it was
important from the outset to establish a clear editorial framework,
the response to devolution would require to be sensitive and flexible.
A comprehensive set of recommendations went to the Board of Governors
and the outcome was a set of announcements in December 1998: for
Scotland, these included:
new investment of £10 million
per annum to provide coverage of the Scottish Parliament on our
television, radio and online services;
in television, a new and more integrated
approach to the 6-7pm news hour to ensure that coverage would
reflect developments across the UK;
a Newsnight Scotland opt-out
from the network programme on four weekdays at 11pm;
more specialist correspondents to
cover major areas of policy;
a network news editor in Scotland
to supervise coverage from Scotland for the rest of the BBC;
new programme strands in radio and
television to provide live and recorded coverage of the Scottish
Parliament alongside the established coverage of Westminster;
in Gaelic language broadcasting,
a new weekly news programme on Radio nan Gaidheal;
training for all BBC journalists
throughout the UK in devolution awareness.
1.3 The overall objective was to ensure
that the Scottish audience would be able to receive a mix of services
from network BBC programmes and from BBC Scotland which would
reflect the realities of political decision-making and accountability
in a devolved UK. That approach is implemented in the current
2.1 Holyrood Live on Wednesdays and
Thursdays is our main opportunity to provide substantial live
coverage of plenary sessions in the Scottish Parliament. Both
editions also carry coverage from Westminster, but each day has
a different emphasis and balance to reflect the nature of the
proceedings in the two Parliaments.
2.2 The policy on Wednesdays is to broadcast
Prime Minister's Questions in its entirety from Westminster, which
reduces the airtime available for business in Edinburgh. Coverage
from the House of Commons is supplemented by reports from correspondents
and interviews with MPs. On Thursdays, First Minister's Questions
is transmitted in its entirety and reports or interviews tend
to focus more on issues and stories relating to the Scottish Parliament.
2.3 Both the Wednesday and Thursday editions
take a news-based approach, supplementing live coverage of proceedings
with fast reaction to developments and informed commentary on
the implications of what has been said in either chamber.
2.4 Holyrood, the political magazine
programme transmitted early on Sunday afternoons, has a brief
to focus on the main Scottish political stories from Holyrood,
Westminster or elsewhere. Its role is in part to look back at
the main political events of the week just ended, while also finding
time to anticipate the key issues of the week ahead.
2.5 Scottish Questions at Westminster
is broadcast live every month and the programme is repeated in
the late evening.
2.6 Reporting Scotland at 6.30pm
has the largest audience of any news or current affairs programme
in Scotland, achieving a 32 per cent share of the audience in
the three months August-October 2001. Its agenda reflects its
role within the early evening news hour, which is to complement
the coverage of major UK and international events in the BBC
Six O'Clock News with comprehensive reporting of issues and
stories in Scotland. The programme has recently made presentational
and other changes following research into audience preferences.
2.7 Newsnight Scotland performs usually
one of two roles: either to provide in-depth analysis of the main
Scottish story of the day, or to present an original and agenda-setting
piece of journalism not necessarily connected to that day's events.
The programme begins shortly after 11.00pm and has a duration
of about 20 minutes. In the most recent quarter (Q3), Newsnight
Scotland and the UK network edition of Newsnight both drew
an audience share of seven per cent.
2.8 BBC Scotland will from time to time
exercise its discretion not to opt out of network Newsnight,
when events at home or abroad indicate that viewers would be better
served by remaining with the full London edition of the programme.
That editorial judgement has been made more frequently than is
usually the case in the weeks following the terrorist attacks
of September 11th.
2.9 Conversely, on the day that Henry McLeish
resigned as First Minister, BBC Scotland felt that this significant
development warranted replacement of the network programme with
a 50-minute edition of Newsnight Scotland. The resignation
was also the main story in the network edition, but treated in
a way that was appropriate for a UK-wide audience less familiar
with the events leading up to Mr McLeish's decision.
2.10 Frontline Scotland has built
a considerable reputation as an investigative series uncovering
important stories in a compelling fashion. There are currently
two runs of 10 programmes annually, each benefiting from substantial
resources and research. The revelatory nature of the series ensures
that its journalism is widely reported elsewhere in the Scottish
media. Average audiences for the current series are around 200,000
(14 per cent share but the range is wide) with 325,000 (28 per
cent share) for the edition on 12 October dealing with the background
to the conviction of William Beggs.
2.11 All of these television news and current
affairs programmes are subtitled to make them accessible to hearing-impaired
3.1 Launched a year ago, Politics Tonight
at 11.00pm on every weekday evening gives Radio Scotland listeners
daily up-to-date coverage from all three Parliaments whose deliberations
impact on Scottish lives. The programme also makes a regular feature
of bringing together mixed panels of MPs, MEPs and MSPs to discuss
specific issues where we feel a wide range of views is appropriate.
3.2 Good Morning Scotland retains
its important and familiar role as an agenda-setting programme.
Its remit is to report international, UK and Scottish news and
to anticipate the major issues likely to develop later in the
day. It has a bigger audience in Scotland than any other speech
programme on radio. GMS provides regular slots for news summaries,
sports news, travel and weather information and financial headlines,
all from a Scottish perspective. But for many listeners the defining
characteristic of the programme is its daily interviews with key
political and other figures at the centre of major issues and
3.3 At lunchtimes from Monday to Friday,
Lesley Riddoch presents a topical discussion programme
in which listeners are able to put questions to politicians and
3.4 Newsdrive between 4.00pm and
6.00pm offers continuous news and information from Scotland and
around the world. The programme makes a particular feature of
including as much live material as possible, often from reporters
using satellite phone technology in remote locations and studio
interviews with the main players in the day's newsworthy events.
3.5 Radio Scotland also provides live coverage
of the monthly Scottish Questions from Westminster.
3.6 At weekends, Newsweek Scotland
gives Saturday morning listeners some detailed analysis of the
major political and social issues of the week, whether domestic
or international. Eye to Eye on Sundays picks up the main
talking points from the Sunday newspapers, but is also known for
its in-depth interviews with the people making the news. It is
as often as not the case that the answers to Ruth Wishart's questions
provide headlines and column inches for the Monday morning papers.
4. NETWORK NEWS
4.1 In the year following the introduction
of devolved government, BBC monitoring confirmed an increase in
the numbers of stories from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
included in network television and radio news or current affairs
4.2 Network news programmes have put more
effort into highlighting policy differences between England and
Scotland, making it clear when specific initiatives apply only
in one country or the other and not across the UK as a whole.
This heightened consciousness of national differences within the
UK stems partly from an awareness and training programme introduced
to make all BBC journalists aware of the impact of constitutional
4.3 Another significant change is that BBC
Scotland is now managerially responsible for the network television
news team in Scotland, ensuring that UK programmes are fully aware
of issues and stories which merit inclusion in services aimed
at the whole of the country.
5. NEWS ONLINE
5.1 This service has established itself
as Scotland's foremost news website, winning the BT Scotland Website
of the Year award in each of the last two years. Scottish political
coverage forms a significant part of the content, with updated
reports on events at both Westminster and the Scottish Parliament.
5.2 In addition to text-based material,
the BBC Scotland site offers live video and audio streaming of
the full range of broadcast news and current affairs from our
radio and television services. In-depth analysis is provided by
News Online journalists as well as by BBC Scotland's political
correspondents at the Edinburgh and Westminster Parliaments.
5.3 A special Vote 2001 section was produced
for the General Election campaign in Scotland. In addition to
these Online services, BBC Scotland Ceefax remains the fastest
source of breaking news coverage at any time and includes a special
section dedicated to Scottish politics.
6.1 In Gaelic language broadcasting,
the BBC devolution funding allowed for the appointment of a parliamentary
correspondent based in Edinburgh. In addition, a new weekly news
review programmeAithris na Seachdainwas introduced
to augment the news service on Radio nan Gaidheal.
6.2 The station was also able to introduce
news bulletins on the hour on Saturdays and the very positive
reception to these developments is confirmed by audience research.
Radio nan Gaidheal's news bulletins are the most popular source
of news for Gaelic speakers.
6.3 In television, a new current affairs
series Cunntas (Account) was introduced and transmits on
a quarterly basis. The programme is recorded in locations across
Scotland and has tackled such issues as Sunday ferry sailings,
the decriminalisation of cannabis and tourism strategy.
6.4 The European affairs series Eorpa
adjusted its editorial content to reflect the impact of the new
devolved governance of Scotland. The programme continues to report
on Scottish issues with a European dimensionrecent examples
including organ donor consent, transportation in rural areas and
the campaign to restore Scottish lamb exports to Europe following
the foot and mouth epidemic.
7.1 This range of services recognises the
significance of Scottish devolution within the context of the
United Kingdom as a whole. Experience over the last two years
has been of reporting and analysing vigorous political debate
on key areas of public policy, both at Westminster and Holyrood.
7.2 All programmes, new and established,
operate on the basis of editorial judgements made in Scotland
on what the priorities are for our viewers and listeners. Apart
from regularly-scheduled series, there is also extensive coverage
of significant political occasions such as the Budget, the Autumn
Statement, the Queen's Speech and the major party conferences.
26 November 2001