Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Nation shall speak irrelevance unto another nation

Joan McAlpine MSP has an excellent article in the Scotsman today about how Scotland is poorly served by a public service broadcaster that has yet to come to terms with devolution - and how that problem may be about to get much, much worse if the proposal to turn BBC2 into a 'network-only' channel goes through (it would, by definition, mean the demise of Newsnight Scotland and a considerable amount of Gaelic-language programming). The piece also includes the new titbit of information (or if it had been previously revealed I wasn't aware of it) that the producers of Question Time withdrew an invitation for an SNP representative to take part in the first edition of the show after the Holyrood election, because the party was unable to put forward Salmond or Sturgeon and offered the Education Secretary Mike Russell instead. I trust no TV interviewer will ever again have the gall to ask about the SNP being a "one-man band" after that little revelation!

Just by coincidence, my attention was drawn to a forum thread the other day (because someone linked to here from it) discussing the merits of the Scottish Six idea. One of the arguments against it was that countries with highly decentralised political systems such as the USA and Australia nevertheless have nationwide network TV news programmes, just as the UK does. That's quite true, but it's still a red herring. The US and Australia both have fully federal systems, which means that network news programmes will generally focus on what the federal government is up to, and will only deal with state-level matters if it's of genuine nationwide relevance or interest. Otherwise, people have to go to their local media for coverage of domestic state issues. But under the UK system of asymmetric devolution, 'national' broadcasters have a ready-made excuse for endlessly focussing on domestic English affairs - namely that those matters remain the province of the UK government, and therefore must be of interest to a UK-wide audience. Even when they aren't.


  1. MacAlpine strangely does not acknowledge the excellent BBC Alba service - on internet, radio and soon to be Freeview. A strange oversight, considering that BBC Alba is run by Scots for Scots. The quality of the content is outstanding too given the limitations of operating in a minority language that it far too often ignored or denigrated by other Scots.

    Even despite the London BBC's English output, it is still by far the best broadcaster we have. See Skye for an 'alternative'.

    London BBC has its faults but we should avoid negative Labour-style whinging at every opportunity as well as treasuring the jewels we have.


  2. "Even despite the London BBC's English output, it is still by far the best broadcaster we have. See Skye for an 'alternative'."

    But the reason the BBC are singled out is because they have responsibilities the others don't - they're the public service broadcaster and charge a licence fee. We don't get a Caledonian Discount because so much of the news output is irrelevant to us, for instance.

    It also has to be said that BBC Scotland provided a poorer service than STV during the election. I'm surprised that was the case, because it wasn't so in previous elections, but it really was pretty poor (with the important exception of the results programme).

    I'm delighted to hear that BBC Alba is arriving on Freeview - although the question still has to be asked, will that fully offset the damage if Gaelic programming is removed from the mainstream channel BBC2?

    As for "negative Labour-style whinging", I don't recognise that in Joan McAlpine's piece. It's sometimes asked "what is the problem to which independence is the solution?" Well, McAlpine is identifying the (massive) problem to which the transfer of broadcasting powers to Scotland is the solution.

  3. The Britnat Broadcasting Corporation is no longer necessary.

    This Labourite broadcasting service is out of touch with Scotland and costs money through an obligatory licence fee.

    We have freedom of speech on the internet now, close it down.

  4. I love the idea of 'Skye TV' "and now, over to our Uig correspondent...."

    STV are a much more credible alternative to the BBC these days.

    BTW, whatever happened to that Brian chap who used to blog for the Beeb?

  5. Brian Taylor? Still going strong - although his blog has just moved to a different address, so I'll have to update my link to it!