Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter to the Chairman from by Mr K C Fraser (PDB 14)

  I understand that the Scottish Affairs Committee, under your chairmanship, is at present investigating the matter of whether the Scottish Parliament is over-represented, by comparison with the Westminster Parliament, in television news broadcasts. May I, as an ordinary television viewer, bring to your attention a point which may or may not have entered into your deliberations. The viewer is not looking at news from Scottish and from British sources as if they were in separate compartments. In a typical week (that of 3-9 November 2001) the programmes listed in the Radio Times suggested to me that, leaving out programmes repeated, or in Gaelic, or broadcast in the small hours of the night, the five terrestrial channels showed, between them, approximately 5,660 minutes of news and current affairs, of which approximately 1,140 (predominantly on ITV) were of Scottish origin, ie about 19 per cent. If one includes the night-time programmes, the total would be approximately 6,800 minutes, of which about 1,175 (17 per cent) were of Scottish origin. I do not claim these figures to be exact—the printed schedules do not provide enough detail—but I suppose they are of the right order. Now it appears to me that an MSP would stand very little chance of appearing on a London-based programme in any normal week (this turned out not to be a normal week, owing to the resignation of the First Minister), whereas an MP might have a chance of appearing either on a London or a Scottish programme (assuming that the proportion of time given over to politicians was equal on Scottish and London programmes). We can, therefore, reasonably suppose that the time devoted to MSPs could not possibly be more than 19 per cent of the total for all politicians, and is probably a good deal less than that. If the satellite channels could be taken into consideration, the MSPs' figure would certainly be even less.

  I conclude, therefore, that, seen on a British basis, the MSPs are not being over-represented. If the Scottish programmes were to be taken in isolation, it may well be that MSPs predominate over MPs, but, considering that Scottish programmes deal only with the domestic affairs of this country, and that, by definition, the great majority of these fall under the Scottish Parliament, I do not think, with respect, that that imbalance would be unfair.

  I should be obliged if you could include this letter in the evidence to your Committee.

14 February 2002

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