Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Third Report


The Scottish Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:



1. We commend the Minutes of Evidence which ranged further in scope than our short Report. We welcome the new contractual arrangements that independent television companies have with ITN, designed to encourage greater regional input and allowing access to pool footage and material. We welcome the appointment of a correspondent in Europe principally to serve BBC Scotland. We believe that the BBC's decisaion to connect debates in Scotland with wider debates going on elsewhere is a responsible and essential prerequisite to high journalistic standards. We would like to see quality, in-depth discussions, such as can be found on Newsnight or Channel Four News, take place earlier in the BBC Scotland or independent schedules. We are concerned about the growing trend of journalists interviewing journalists. As technology advances, we may be in danger of becoming too locked into the notion that broadcasters should be responsible for coverage of even the most local of news. We believe that although continued monitoring of a situation within which there is always room for improvement is necessary, the BBC news and current affairs machine performs a difficult job to a relatively high degree. We were reassured by the closer co-operation which now exists between BBC Scotland and its news gathering colleagues in London. We urge the BBC to include additional items in its news bulletins which reflect the progress of devolution. The evidence from the BBC clearly showed that there was no technical reason why a news programme mixing international, UK-wide and Scottish news made and edited in Scotland could not be produced, although some practical difficulties were identified. There remains concern about the dominance of the Scottish Media Group in broadcasting and print journalism in Scotland. We believe that consideration should be given to making necessary changes to the Broadcasting Act to allow commercial companies in Scotland to broadcast their own equivalent of a 'Scottish Six', if they wished to do so. We accept the point made by Scottish Television that balance needs to be sought across the range of provision. There is sometimes an editorial laziness amongst news and current affairs broadcasters in Scotland, which leads to inappropriate interviews.

Background and context

2. The Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996 and the BBC Charter and Agreement have developed a framework for broadcasting in the UK. The Broadcasting Act 1990 established the procedure which the Independent Television Commission must adopt during consideration of licence applications. These include requirements related to the provision of news and current affairs programmes and the need for a regional dimension in programming.[1]

3. Local and regional radio stations in Scotland, as elsewhere, have the ability to decide the volume and quality of news they provide, subject to the provisions of individual Promises of Performance or Format and the requirements of the Codes of the Radio Authority.[2] Radio services operated by the BBC come within the Charter and Agreement arrangements, which are monitored by the Board of Governors.

4. The advent of devolution caused some excitement amongst broadcasters. The focus of press attention on the work of the Scottish Parliament was intense and continues to be so. The working arrangements of the Parliament allow for easy access by journalists. The numbers of journalists, particularly print journalists, employed to cover proceedings was high. New arrangements designed to meet the change in circumstances were introduced or contemplated by broadcasters in advance of the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Televison rashly and, as it transpired, temporarily withdrew its Westminster Correspondent. The Broadcasting Council for Scotland considered the case for the introduction of an editorial base in Scotland for the BBC's early evening news programme, which would be distinct and separate from London.

5. This presaged the 'Scottish Six' debate which still continues today. As devolution approached, the Broadcasting Council for Scotland concluded that the BBC needed to respond to constitutional change by a revamp of its news and current affairs output.[3] It approached the BBC Board of Governors with proposals for a Six o'clock news edited in Glasgow. In 1998 the idea was rejected. Instead an extra £10 million a year was allocated to facilitate on a UK-wide basis, an increased Scottish perspective to early evening news, to create Newsnight Scotland, to allow for a network news editor in Scotland to supervise coverage there for the rest of the BBC, and to train journalists on the impact of devolution.[4]

6. There remains a number of vociferous proponents of the 'Scottish Six', including Mr Nigel R Smith, a former member of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland, and the Scottish Consumer Council, who published a report on communications in Scotland at the time we finished taking oral evidence.[5] The Broadcasting Council for Scotland still broadly supports the principle of a 'Scottish Six'.[6] A review by the BBC of current arrangements is due in Spring 2003, at the end of the first Scottish Parliament. The Chair of the Council told us he would revive the proposal for a 'Scottish Six' if, after the review, it seemed the right thing to do.[7]

7. A recent book by Schlesinger, Miller and Dinan[8], noted that political communication usually takes the nation state as its framework.[9] It said:

    "In everyday political life although less and less as devolution takes hold, it is still generally assumed that the UK is a bounded, sovereign polity, with its own national political agenda, communicated by its own national media."[10]

The book drew attention to a line of sociological thought concerned with how nations speak to themselves and "how they mark themselves off as different from others."[11] A number of commentators have argued that "nations are set apart from other collectivities because of the distinctiveness of their internal communications."[12] Schlesinger, Miller and Dinan suggested that:

    "With devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, 'Britain' and 'Britishness' have begun to disaggregate or, at the very least, to be redefined."[13]

8. In the chapter on devolution and the BBC, which highlighted some of the Corporation's internal squabbles and tensions surrounding the 'Scottish Six' debate of the late 1990s, the authors stated:

    "From the time of its foundation under John Reith, the corporation has seen itself as an 'organisation within the constitution' with a public-service mission based on the unquestioned assumption that there is a national community to be addressed....In the late 1990s, the question was how the BBC would reinterpret its traditional self-conception when dominant ideas of state and nation were being challenged."[14]

9. Both Border Television and the Scottish Media Group remarked that there was not much interest south of the border in the affairs of the Scottish Parliament.[15]


10. We embarked on our inquiry into post-devolution news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland with a view to examining the current arrangements. We wanted to assess whether or not viewers and listeners in Scotland were receiving a comprehensive, well-rounded and balanced diet of news and current affairs output, which included proper coverage of the matters related to the various strata of government, devolved, reserved, European and, indeed, local, as well as the appropriate international ingredients. We also posed questions concerning the weight given to issues that were relevant to particular parts of Scotland. We wondered too whether there was a "central belt" agenda driving news and current affairs output which derived from Scotland. We held three oral evidence sessions, during which we heard from: BBC Scotland, the Broadcasting Council for Scotland, the Scottish Media Group, Border Television, Scottish Radio Holdings, Mr Nigel R Smith, Mr David Hutchison, Professor Philip Schlesinger, Mr Robert Brown MSP, Mr Frank McAveety MSP and Mr Michael Russell MSP. In addition written evidence was received from Channel 4 Television, the Radio Authority and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Full details of witnesses and memoranda can be found on pages 4 to 6.

11. We commend to the House the Minutes of Evidence for this inquiry, which are printed together with the Report. Our terms of reference, namely, the effects of devolution on the structure of news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland, were consciously specific and limited in scope. But each of our witnesses was prepared to respond to questions outside of the remit. This led on occasions to a robust and wide-ranging debate on broadcasting issues, including questions about the impact of multi-media companies and ownership concerns, developments in on-line communication, Gaelic broadcasting and the current input from ethnic minorities. The session with our MSP colleagues was particularly lively and informative.

12. A good deal of the evidence we received was by necessity impressionistic. A short review of broadcasting issues at this time of rapid technological change coupled with sociological realignments caused by constitutional innovation and an increasingly multi-cultural audience must be speculative. But we would discourage the overuse of anecdote in evidence to select committees, since this can serve to detract from rather than embellish a line of argument. Formal evidence to select committees benefits from being substantiated, so far as possible.

13. Throughout our endeavours we were continually aware of the shifting ground upon which we were treading. We noted the comments by Professor Schlesinger and his colleagues on the disaggregation of Britishness following devolution.

14. The imminent arrival of the new media regulator, an Office of Communications (OFCOM), caused us to ask about the consequences for news and current affairs broadcasting. These seem to be minimal. We heard evidence on the desirability or not of the BBC coming under the auspices of OFCOM, an outcome advocated by commercial television and radio operators, but rejected, unsurprisingly, by the BBC. This aspect of the broadcasting debate was outside our remit. We offer no view other than what might be gained from a reading of the evidence.

15. There is also the quicksand lying in wait for unwary attempts to predict the likely impact of the digital age. Is the brave new world of the communications age in sight of being fully realised as some, including the BBC—who have put licence payers money where their mouth is—seem to think? Or, could it be, as others have argued, that a white elephant is looming large?

16. We do not anticipate a Government reply to this Report. Our intention was to provide the House with a brief overview of what we perceive as the situation which news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland finds itself today.

Review of evidence

17. Written evidence from the commercial channels recognised that devolution has had a significant effect on news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland, with a shift of focus to Edinburgh. The Broadcasting Council for Scotland made the same point.[16] Scottish Television spoke of the novelty value of access to and concentration of politicians in Edinburgh. This caused the company temporarily to withdraw its correspondent from Westminster, which for a time was only covered on an ad hoc basis.[17] This was clearly a misjudgement brought on by the nature of the times. Scottish Televison quickly recognised that important stories were still emerging from London. It concluded that whilst attention still tended to be focused on the Scottish Parliament, Westminster had to be covered regularly. It believed that in general devolution had seen political matters being dealt with more often and in greater detail.[18] Border Television said that there had been an increased awareness of political issues.[19]

18. The Scottish Television section of the memorandum from the Scottish Media Group also said, "The content of our existing programmes had altered significantly in the post-devolution era."[20] It argued that devolution to Edinburgh of the bulk of domestic policy responsibilities, "issues that matter most to our viewers", which now received more scrutiny, needed to be reflected in news programming. This had caused a profound impact on content.[21] The memorandum further stated that in Scotland devolution had led to improved accountability, which previously had been more difficult to achieve:[22]

    "Holding to account a small number of Scottish Office Ministers based for at least part of their working week in London was not always easy. It was often difficult to secure access to relevant ministerial interviewees. It is now much easier for broadcasters to get access to the relevant responsible Minister and to hold that Minister to account in interviews or live appearances in our programmes."[23]

19. Grampian Television concluded that, whilst Westminster remained an important source of news and current affairs, devolution has led to different sources for many of the items covered.[24] Since devolution the Scottish Media Group had been liaising with ITN, which is the national news provider for the commercial channels, with a view to improving both explanation and coverage of devolution matters.[25] The television companies have recently negotiated a new contract with ITN which contains a provision which aims to "try to get a much closer relationship between ITN and the regions."[26] The Scottish Media Group will henceforth have easy access to pool footage and pool coverage from ITN,[27] a development that will enhance the Company's ability to reflect issues of UK importance. These are positive steps which we welcome.

20. The arrival of devolution and the bruising debate concerning the 'Scottish Six' caused the BBC to introduce improved links between Scotland and London with regard to the production of news and current affairs programmes. Sir Robert Smith, Chair of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland said:

    "The Broadcasting Council has been very impressed with the co-operation between Scotland and London in arranging the running order, the correct handling of areas like transport, health, education, land reform, which are properly areas for which the Scottish Parliament has legislative responsibility. That, frankly, did not happen adequately before devolution. There was not enough contact between Scotland and London."[28]

21. During oral evidence witnesses from the BBC spoke of the increase in Scottish-based stories on national news[29] and the successful viewing figures for Reporting Scotland and the Newsnight opt out.[30] But the Westminster perspective had not been lost.[31] The BBC argued that the 'Scottish Six' debate was a pre-devolution issue that had been overcome by restructuring the news hour at 6 and by increased liaison and co-operation between London and Scotland.[32] BBC Scotland was managerially responsible for all network news gathering in Scotland. Blair Jenkins, Head of News and Current Affairs at BBC Scotland said:

    "I think the [present] case for the 'Scottish Six' would have to be not that what we have at the moment is not working, but that we can identify ways in which what we do would be better and would be improved if we moved on to that particular proposition."[33]

22. Whilst the Broadcasting Council for Scotland still supports the principle of a 'Scottish Six',[34] Sir Robert Smith said:

    "I wish we had a different vocabulary other than 'Scottish Six' because it just raises all sorts of historical things whereas, in fact, the whole issue is about editorial control in Scotland and how it works with London. We have moved a long, long way from where we were two and a half years ago and I think we need to look at where we are now. Is it sufficient? If it is not sufficient, do we need better editorial control in Scotland? If that is the right thing, then we will be taking that to the Board of Governors and arguing the case there."[35]

23. BBC Scotland spoke of the need to ensure that Scottish audiences were able to receive a mix of services, which reflected the realities of political decision making and accountability since devolution.[36] It said that there now exists greater coherence in coverage of parliamentary activity in Edinburgh, London and Brussels.[37]

24. The BBC admitted that regional balance was a perennial issue for broadcasters in general.[38] Attempts were being made to reflect news from around Scotland and to move away from the "central belt" to illustrate stories.[39] The Head of News and Current Affairs at BBC Scotland told us "We think we do that fairly well but it is undoubtedly a constant challenge to us not to be over-focused on the two main cities."[40]

25. In terms of coverage of European matters, the Broadcasting Council for Scotland had voiced some concern, the result of which was the appointment of a correspondent based in Europe principally to serve BBC Scotland.[41] We welcome this appointment and look forward to increased coverage of European issues.

26. As well as striving to provide an appropriate level of balance between the three political centres and the local issues throughout Scotland, BBC Scotland has put some thought into how it might "connect the debates in Scotland with the wider debates going on elsewhere."[42] We believe this to be a responsible and essential prerequisite to high journalistic standards, which has particular relevance to a small country with a history of looking outwards.

27. Mr Nigel Smith, former member of the Broadcasting Council for Scotland, former Chair of Broadcasting for Scotland Campaign and former Chair of Scotland Forward, took issue with the claim that there had been "a noticeably greater inclusion of Scottish material in the network news at 6pm."[43] He argued that although the Scottish-based content might have grown from one to three per cent, such an increase was of little consequence.[44] Mr Smith suggested that news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland had not been right for 20 years and no longer gave a balanced view.[45] Mr Smith laid the blame at the feet of the BBC Governors as well as politicians. Mr David Hutchison, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at Glasgow Caledonian University, argued that Scotland had suffered historically in news and current affairs terms from the need to produce distinctive regional material. He believed this approach contained the danger of parochialism.[46] Mr Hutchison suggested that the ideal model for mature broadcasting was where there existed responsibility for presenting the full range of news and current affairs output to the audience. He cited the example of Radio Scotland which combined international, UK and Scottish news and comment, drawing on resources in Scotland, the UK and throughout the world.

28. Both Mr Smith and Professor Schlesinger noted the complex circumstances surrounding the growing levels of political disengagement discernable in the electorate. Both allocated some blame for this development to the quality of public service broadcasting.[47] Mr Hutchinson spoke of the "danger of always being seen to be in opposition."[48] He cited an example of "zealous destructiveness" which he believed should be avoided.[49] Mr Hutchison reminded us that:

    "We live in an age where the agencies of social cohesion...are not as powerful as they once were. Broadcasting is an agency of social cohesion, and if you undermine the major public service channels, then we run quite serious risks, which we ought to think long and hard about."[50]

29. Another word of caution was sounded by Professor Schlesinger and Mr Hutchison concerning the absence of research into questions of balance and audience reaction to news and current affairs programmes.[51]

30. Professor Schlesinger told us that since devolution Scotland had become a political entity in a way that it had not been before,[52] the implication being that this fact should be recognised by broadcasters. Mr Hutchison recalled an interesting phrase from a former American Ambassador when he said "broadcasting has got to find a way of adapting to asymmetrical federalism rather better than it has managed."[53]

31. Mr Hutchison believed that although the structure of some current affairs broadcasting might be unsound, it was a problem that might be rectified.[54] For example he mooted the idea that quality discussions such as can sometimes be found on either Newsnight or the Scottish opt-out might feature earlier in the schedules. Commending Channel 4 News, Mr Hutchison suggested the inclusion of in-depth analysis within the context of the 6-7 news hour on both the BBC and ITV.[55] The Managing Director of Scottish Television said:

    "One of the things we are looking to do as part of our ongoing discussions with ITV and the ITC about the place of original programming in the future is to bring programmes like Platform and Crossfire slightly earlier in the schedule."[56]

BBC Scotland explained that it was looking for ways to overcome "the tyranny of the two-minute soundbite."[57] Providing some scope for serious discussion during the early evening news hour would be a step forward.

32. The MSPs who appeared before us gave full rein to their thoughts on news and current affairs broadcasting. Mr Mike Russell MSP (SNP, South of Scotland) drew attention to the monolithic centralised structure of the BBC, an organisation which, he believed, was unresponsive and frightened of change.[58] Mr Russell thought that the Scottish Media Group had a long way to go in its approach to achieve the provision of a Scottish perspective.[59] He suggested that 90 per cent of broadcast news and current affairs output in Scotland was not produced there. Mr Russell argued that greater prominence was given to Whitehall Ministers, even those with little or no responsibility in Scotland.[60] Lastly, we were reminded by Mr Russell that the purpose of broadcasting legislation was to protect social, political and cultural imperatives. He added:

    "That argument seems to have disappeared in favour entirely of economic imperatives and the seeming inevitability of some global market. It is not inevitable."[61]

In similar vein to the hypothesis in the book by Professor Schlesinger and his colleagues, Mr Russell believed that it was now not possible in the UK for nation to speak unto nation. In terms of the BBC, Mr Russell said:

    "They simply have a job they cannot do, and I believe some of them do try quite hard to bring in Scottish stories of various dimensions, but it cannot work. It is simply a model of broadcasting which is totally past."[62]

33. Mr Frank McAveety MSP (Labour, Glasgow Shettleston) said that broadcast journalism was more balanced than print journalism. He was however disappointed with the quality of some of the material on the Newsnight opt-out, which is available to viewers in Scotland.[63] Mr McAveety alluded to some of the concerns about the Glasgow/Edinburgh city centric viewpoint achieving precedence over news items from other parts of Scotland, unless a crisis was involved.[64] In agreement with our own low opinion on the matter, he spoke eloquently against the growing trend of journalists interviewing journalists about topical issues.[65]

34. The evidence from Mr Robert Brown MSP (Liberal Democrat, Glasgow) indicated the variety of perspectives that required attention both in Scotland and the UK.[66] He made an important point, also raised by Mr Smith, with regard to the way people assimilate information concerning local issues. This is achieved by a range of sources including television, radio and print. We believe that this illustrates the point that the public is both discerning and aware of placing undue reliance on one medium for the provision of news. As technology advances, there may be a danger of becoming too locked into the notion that broadcasters should be responsible for coverage of even the most local of news. It would certainly make news gathering, which as Mr Smith said, was expensive, prohibitive.[67]

35. Mr Brown worried about the dominance over broadcasting and print journalism that the Scottish Media Group had in Scotland.[68] He also endorsed the complaint from Mr McAveety concerning the insufficient clarity in news and current affairs programmes, whereby the distinctiveness of Scotland's position or policy on a given matter as a result of devolution was either confused or not readily signified.

36. The Radio Authority explained that the three all-UK radio services did not split programming. This was largely for technical reasons. Coverage by these stations of Scottish affairs was therefore governed by editorial judgement of the likely interest to the UK-wide audience. Local and regional radio stations provided substantial coverage to Scottish matters. The Radio Authority said, "A comment made to us purports that news and current affairs coverage post devolution has not heightened an overall interest in Scottish issues with listeners."[69] The Authority also noted that most of the local and regional Scottish stations are music-based with only modest-sized newsrooms.[70]

An assessment

37. The 6 to 7pm news hour on both BBC and ITV is popular. Audiences tend to dip in and out. But as Mr Hutchison told us, there was difficulty in arousing audience interest in politics.[71] This truism is, in terms of democratic development and understanding, depressing. But at the moment it remains a fact of life. Public service broadcasting demands that issues of importance are put before the viewer and listener in an appropriate form. Managing this part of the broadcasting menu is problematic, particularly for the commercial channels who will not stand idly by in the face of declining audiences. There is a tendency now to park current affairs programmes well out of the way. Witness the fate of Panorama over the past few years.

38. Whilst insisting on and being part of a vigorous monitoring process, we must be careful not to become too lathered about how news and current affairs programmes are presented in the various quarters of the United Kingdom, so long as high standards are adhered to. Clearly there has to be a local perspective. And in Scotland care needs to be taken to reflect views on local issues from all parts of Scotland and to strengthen international coverage. That said, we remain still a United Kingdom and a national perspective is equally important. Ensuring an acceptable balance between the various conflicting pressures, particularly on an often overcrowded peak time news, is a feat almost impossible to achieve. There will always be room for improvement. We acknowledge the difficulty of the role performed, especially by the BBC. We consider that the impossible is, in tricky circumstances, accomplished to a relatively high degree.

39. The task we set ourselves was to review the post-devolution news and current affairs arrangements for broadcasting in Scotland. It quickly became clear how much improved was the provision by the BBC with regard to the Scottish content. Prior to devolution the Scottish dimension in national news had been barely noticeable. We were reassured by the BBC about the level of contact between Glasgow and London which was now apparent. But, whilst noting the lack of interest in the south of England in the Scottish Parliament, we would urge the BBC to include additional items in its news bulletins which reflect the progress of devolution. It is simply not balanced, reasonable or fair merely to report the sensational aspects of Scottish politics or policy areas where there might be some contradiction with developments in other parts of the UK. The evidence from the BBC clearly showed that there was no technical reason why a news programme mixing international, UK-wide and Scottish news made and edited in Scotland could not be produced, although some practical difficulties were identified.[72]

40. At the end of the first Scottish Parliament BBC Scotland and the Broadcasting Council for Scotland propose a review of the current arrangements for news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland. As we have said, whilst there is an expressed satisfaction with the present circumstances, the Broadcasting Council for Scotland remains attached in principle to moving the editorial base for BBC Scotland news provision to Glasgow, if that would improve the quality of output and could be seen to be "the right thing to do."[73] The Head of News and Current Affairs at BBC Scotland told us:

    "I think it is very important this remains an editorial judgment and an editorial decision rather than a political judgment or a political decision."[74]

41. We welcome the decision by the BBC Board of Governors to review the position of the early evening news in Scotland in 2003. Underpinning any so called editorial decision is a political dynamic of the first order, particularly when it leads to major, perhaps controversial, consequences involving the BBC. We suggest that during this review the Board of Governors should consult as widely as possible with Scottish society as well as with other interested parties.

42. We believe there to be genuine concerns about the dominance of the Scottish Media Group in broadcasting and print journalism in Scotland. In an ideal world, it cannot be to the advantage of the viewer or listener to be subject, excluding the BBC, to the views, ideas and agenda emanating from one commercial organisation. It is an area where constant vigilance will be necessary. In the context of our interest in a properly balanced news and current affairs output, we accept the important point made by the Managing Director of Scottish Television that such balance might be found if considered in the light of the material broadcast across the range of programmes on offer.[75]

43. We noted that the terms of the Broadcasting Act 1990 as it currently stands precludes the introduction of a commercial television version of the 'Scottish Six'. The SMG evidence strongly suggested that this was not an option they were minded to pursue due to commercial reasons.[76] We believe that consideration should be given to making necessary changes to the Broadcasting Act to allow commercial companies in Scotland to broadcast their own equivalent of a 'Scottish Six', if they wished to do so.

44. A habit of some news and current affairs broadcasters in Scotland, which to our mind is a symptom of editorial laziness, is the tendency to interview MSPs, no matter what the subject in question. The Scottish Media Group agreed that there was a possible tendency in this direction. Scottish Radio Holdings told us:

    "I would not use the word problem...[but] Because it is a much smaller operation and it is based 40 miles down the road, it is probably true to say that it is easier to get responses from MSPs than it is from MPs. It would be silly to assume that was not the case."[77]

45. Broadcasters should strive to include comment from those with some direct connection with the policy area under discussion. This is part of the perennial request to journalists to get their facts right and gather information from the appropriate quarter. Proper attention to detail concerning who might be best consulted, would probably lead to added concentration amongst politicians in general on some of the more positive areas of news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland.

46. The Scottish Media Group frankly admitted to an imbalance in terms of selecting the most appropriate interviewee, particularly when this involved local authorities or councillors. However, in a move which we commend, Scottish Television has made it the objective of a journalist in both the Edinburgh and Glasgow newsrooms to become more aware of what is happening at local authority level.[78] Given that, as we have noted, the BBC introduced training in devolution awareness following the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, it would be useful for the BBC and SMG to learn from each other's initiatives.

47. It struck us, as it must all observers of the Scottish Parliament, that there seemed to be a profusion of journalists covering the work there. Professor Schlesinger said:

    "The last time I looked into this, there were about 200 accreditations, a lot of which were technical staff, but nonetheless there seemed to be around 40 to 50 regular political correspondents, which is a large number, for example, compared to Westminster...It is a very competitive environment, and there is no doubt that stories do get played up and sought after quite fiercely, and that has its effects in the press and in broadcasting."[79]

Recognising the possibility of an excessive number of journalists being located at the Scottish Parliament, Mr Hutchison said he would be surprised not to see some kind of adjustment.[80] BBC Scotland agreed. The Head of News and Current Affairs noted that:

    "The volume of coverage across all media in Scotland has been, I think, probably greater than most people would have expected....There has been a very, very large amount of coverage."[81]

The digital age

48. The question, to which we are unable to supply the answers, is: will digital broadcasting change things beyond recognition? The BBC who have a clear financial stake, spoke of more choice, on-line advantages, and a wider range of services which were closer to the audience.[82] We also heard that news gathering could become more ambitious. Scottish Radio Holdings told us that the cost of digital radio was high.[83]

49. Reflecting our own caution, Professor Schlesinger said:

    "We are urged to think that the digital age is on us, but the evidence is not absolutely conclusive on is a possibility that the economic base for producing high quality journalism across a wider range of channels would be weaker."[84]

Mr Hutchison and Mike Russell were of one mind, believing that comprehensive digital conversion by the target year of 2010 was unlikely to happen without intervention from the Government.[85]

1   See the memorandum from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Ev 81, Appendix 3, para 13. Back

2   Ev 78-79, Appendix 2. Back

3   Ev 5, para 1.1. Back

4   For background to the debate within the BBC over the 'Scottish Six', see Open Scotland? by Philip Schlesinger, David Miller and William Dinan, Polygon at Edinburgh, 2001, chapter 2. Back

5   Reaching Out. The Consumer Perspective on Communications in Scotland, Scottish Consumer Council, January 2002. Back

6   Q16. Back

7   IbidBack

8   Open Scotland? by Philip Schlesinger, David Miller and William Dinan, Polygon at Edinburgh, 2001. Back

9   Ibid, p1. Back

10   Ibid. Back

11   Ibid, p2. Back

12   Ibid. Back

13   Ibid, p3. Back

14   Ibid, p33. Back

15   Q81. Back

16   Ev 6, para 3.7. Back

17   Ev 31, para 4.11. Back

18   See also Q81 and Q113. Back

19   Q113. Back

20   Ev 30, para 4.1. Back

21   Ev 31, para 4.6 and 4.7. Back

22   Ibid, para 4.14. Back

23   Ibid, para 4.10. Back

24   Ev 33. Back

25   Q89. Back

26   Ibid. Back

27   Ibid. Back

28   Q1. See also Q4 and Q7. Back

29   Q4. See also Ev 5, para 1.3. Back

30   Q2. Back

31   Q48. Back

32   Q1, Q4 and Q7. Back

33   Q15. Back

34   Q16. Back

35   Q78. Back

36   Ev 2, para 1.3. Back

37   Ev 1-2, Summary. Back

38   Q30. Back

39   Q41. Back

40   Q30. Back

41   Q30. Back

42   Q31. Back

43   Ev 5, para 2.6. Back

44   Q177. Back

45   Ev 54. Back

46   Ev 53. Back

47   Q170. Back

48   Ibid. Back

49   Ibid. Back

50   Q190. Back

51   Q166 and Q168. Back

52   Q176. Back

53   Q181. Back

54   Q176 and Q179. Back

55   Q179. Back

56   Q124. Back

57   Q54. Back

58   Q193. Back

59   Ibid. Back

60   Q196. Back

61   Q197. Back

62   Q198. Back

63   Q193. Back

64   Q195. Back

65   Q205. Back

66   Q193. Back

67   Ibid. See also Q172. Back

68   Q195. Back

69   Ev 79, Appendix 2. Back

70   Ibid. Back

71   Q167. Back

72   Q23. Back

73   Q16. Back

74   Q17. Back

75   Q85. Back

76   Q90 and Q98. Back

77   Q144. Back

78   Q117. Back

79   Q186. Back

80   Ibid. Back

81   Q47. Back

82   Q73. Back

83   Q160. Back

84   Q190. Back

85   Q190 and Q195. Back

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