BBC to invest £30m in new Scottish TV channel
BBC have laid out plans for the “biggest single investment” in the corporation north of the border for more than 20 years.
The BBC will invest £30m – £20.6 m of which is new investment – to fund a new Scottish-centric channel and increase the current budget of its Gaelic channel, BBC Alba.
The substantial reforms, to take place over three years beginning in the autumn of 2018, are a dramatic reversal of previously planned £26.5m cuts to BBC spending in Scotland. They represent an increase to 68% – up from 55% – of licence fee money, amounting to £320m per year in Scotland, which will be spent on domestic programming.
BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall said on the investment at the BBC Scotland HQ on 22 February: “All of this combined amounts to the biggest single investment by the BBC in broadcast content in Scotland in over 20 years.
“This will be a huge boost for BBC Scotland and for the Scottish creative industries.”
The new channel – which will be called BBC Scotland – will broadcast every evening from 7pm to midnight and focus on producing drama, comedy, news and factual programming.
There will also be a nightly news hour, edited and produced from Scotland, at 9pm.
All programmes will made available on the iPlayer across the UK and given a prominent slot on the Electronic Programme Guide.
The plans come on the heels of the “Scottish Six” news hour-style programme developed by BBC Scotland, after criticisms the BBC One national News at Six often featured stories that had little to no relevance to Scottish audiences.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the move “long overdue and very positive” on Twitter, but expressed disappointment that the mooted “Scottish Six” idea had been rejected.
“It doesn’t deliver everything that everyone wanted – e.g. no Scottish 6 disappointing – but progress and hopefully sign of new thinking.”
The announcement has been widely welcomed by Scottish politicians, with culture secretary Fiona Hyslop calling the plans a “real shift in the right direction from the BBC and responds to calls we’ve made for some time for a new TV channel for Scotland.”
Scottish Conservative shadow culture secretary Jackson Carlaw echoed Hyslop’s sentiments, saying the investment was an “extremely welcome announcement”.
He added: “It is good for jobs, journalism, scrutiny and programming.”
Not all, however, were supportive of the announcement. Darren Miller, Clwd West National Assembly for Wales, called the move an “insult” to licence fee payers in Wales.
“Whilst any extra cash for BBC programming in Wales is very welcome, the fact that Scotland has been given so much more by the BBC really is an insult to Wales,” he added in an interview with the North West Pioneer. “BBC bosses seem to think that Welsh viewers are second-class licence fee payers.”
Jono Read, a national freelance journalist who fought against the closing of the BBC 3 channel, added: “The BBC didn’t have the money to keep a youth TV Channel [BBC3], but will launch another for older audiences. Frustrating.”
BBC’s main rival in Scotland, STV, already have a planned Scottish, UK and international news programme.
It’s slated to begin airing on its new STV 2 channel at 7pm from next month – 18 months earlier than the planned BBC Scotland 9pm news.