BBC Scotland is failing to carry out its obligations to Scotland and has a flagship TV news programme that is out of date and parochial, according to the SNP.
In a move that signals a toughening approach to the national broadcaster, the SNP has said the station has failed to regain trust it lost due to its coverage of the 2014 independence referendum.
The criticisms are contained in a hard-hitting submission to the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom. According to The National, the document slams the corporation over its lack of ambition and its failure to invest. The submission follows news this week that BBC Scotland’s new digital channel is to be delayed until February next year.
Describing BBC Scotland’s flagship TV news programme Reporting Scotland as “parochial” the SNP insists the new digital channel’s 9pm counterpart must target a younger audience: “We understand BBC Scotland’s 9pm flagship news programme will be aimed at a broad audience and look to attract a greater share of the younger audience. Achieving this is vital. With the average age of Reporting Scotland’s audience understood to be 61, this highlights just how different the style, tone and content the new channel’s news output needs to be compared to existing BBC Scotland TV news,
“The new programme must invest money and resource into unique high-quality content; it also must seek to be relevant to the political, cultural and social aspirations of Scotland’s younger and digitally engaged audience.”
The SNP also warned against an over-reliance on the current BBC Scotland online content for any new channel.
It added: “It has been suggested that the channel will be closely tied to BBC Scotland’s website and BBC Scotland’s digital output in order to engage and attract that younger audience. The web news output from BBC Scotland is often just a reflection of Reporting Scotland. It is vital that the new channel commands its own agenda and generates strong multi-platform content for the main BBC website and social media channels.”
The submission also criticisied BBC Scotland for failing to win back trust lost during the independence referendum. Donalda MacKinnon, who replaced Kenneth MacQuarrie as the head at BBC Scotland in 2016, made winning back trust one of her key pledges. However mistrust of political output at Pacific Quay appears to have grown.
The submission said: “The new channel’s success should be judged against the public purpose set out in the BBC’s Royal Charter which states the BBC must provide: ‘Impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them’.
“The BBC’s own audience council surveys demonstrate that trust in the BBC is lowest in Scotland. The BBC itself has admitted that its coverage of the 2014 referendum led to a loss of trust among a significant number of Scots. In effect, many people in Scotland do not feel the public purpose to deliver impartial news and information is always being met in Scotland.”
“Since the referendum nearly four years ago we have seen no evidence of BBC Scotland delivering on its promise to increase the ‘trust’ that it lost. Its own audience surveys two years after the referendum reflect this failure.”
The submission to Ofcom is already being viewed by many pro-independence activists as a sign that the SNP is toughening its stance with the BBC. Last week former First Minister Alex Salmond admitted he had developed a ‘blind spot’ for the corporation in 2014, believing it would cover the independence referendum in a fair and impartial manner.
The pro-Union coverage led to protests outside the BBC’s headquarters in Glasgow where thousands gathered and demanded balance. Despite a welter of evidence to the contrary, the London controlled broadcaster has never acknowledged it failed to maintain an impartial stance in the run-up to the September 2014 ballot.
The BBC’s failures led to a book and a documentary, both of which exposed the worst examples of the orporation’s pro-Union bias. London Calling, the book by GA Ponsonby can be purchased here. The documentary of the same name can be viewed below.
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