Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60 - 79)



Mr Duncan

  60. Going back a few minutes, we were talking about audience response, and extending that to audience share, I noticed that BBC figures nationally have overtaken ITV for the first time. I am sure this is a tremendous achievement. I know in Scotland that has not yet happened, that you are still behind ITV. Is your commitment to news and current affairs broadcasting seen perhaps as restricting your ability to overtake ITV in audience share, or do you see the potential for expanding it as being an opportunity to further enhance your leadership?
  (Mr McCormick) Certainly within the performance of the channel as a whole, BBC1 Scotland, the trend of the last year where the audiences have overtaken ITV on a UK basis has also been matched in Scotland where historically the ITV companies in Scotland were 9 or 10 points ahead of BBC1 Scotland, and we have now narrowed the gap to around 3 per cent, which is a matter of some satisfaction. We are going to be developing that. That is one of the reasons for the policy of investing in a contemporary drama that is there twice a week and a broader range of entertainment programmes. These are always very, very competitive areas to operate in. Some you fail, some you win; but the success of something like Chewin' The Fat which on Friday night got 46 per cent of everybody watching television in Scotland—they were watching that single programme—indicates that we want to provide a broad range of programming that has a resonance with the audience across Scotland. So we would say very often, on nights when EastEnders does not play, we often find that Reporting Scotland has the highest audience for any programme in peak time on BBC1 Scotland. So certainly that indicates to us the appetite for news. What we want to do, based on our talking to audiences, is this. We had a major piece of research 18 months ago where basically conclusions could be summed up as people said to us, "We like your current affairs and we like your news and that Kirsty Wark is great and Ann McKenzie and Gordon Brewer. We like all that. You are very good at that, but could you make us smile a bit more." As a result of that, out came the policy which resulted in Chewin' The Fat and contemporary drama and a bit more emphasis on entertainment, to redress the balance from the increased amount of news and current affairs that we produced following devolution. We will be in a position to assess how well we are doing at the end of that two year period this time next year, when we will have completed the cycle of that investment, had some failures, hopefully had some successes to match the ones we have at the moment and build on that. It is basically a competitive business. The search for audiences in the multi-channel environment has never been harder or harsher. We are looking at it over a five year period. We would hope that by the time we move into Pacific Quay at the end of that five year period we are looking at, that we have managed to strengthen the whole base of the BBC in Scotland, both in terms of investment and production, but delivering to the audiences on radio and television and online within our Gaelic services and our English-speaking services a much wider range of programmes, so that we can bring the BBC, and BBC1 Scotland particularly, closer to the audiences in Scotland. It is very important to us, the existence of one BBC, and we want the people of Scotland to feel closer to the channel. They have been saying to us—we did with the news and current affairs again get very positive feedback to that - "Strengthen your entertainment and your drama specifically for Scotland." We are getting very good feedback to the network drama—Monarch of the Glen, Two Thousand Acres of Skye, a new series coming up Rockface—a whole range of programming that we have been doing. We are getting a terrific response to that, but we want to strengthen the local entertainment programmes specifically for audiences in Scotland. I hope that we can begin to assess that in a year's time so that by the time we move into Pacific Quay we have a very broad based programming which says to the people of Scotland, that they will get a good return for the licence fee investment.

Ann McKechin

  61. Sir Robert, the Broadcasting Council's written submissions state that there is more to be done in reflecting the UK to the UK.[3] How do you believe that broadcasters in Scotland can work to achieve that?

  (Sir Robert Smith) I think first of all by giving them resources. John indicated we have moved from something like £95 million in 1998/99 and in the next year, 2002/03 we have £160 million. That does not guarantee excellence but it does give an opportunity to produce some programmes because I think that reflecting Scotland to the rest of the UK and the rest of the UK to Scotland, Scotland to the rest of the world and Scotland to Scots actually, it is not just about news and current affairs. It is about drama, it is about factual, it is about entertainment and how Scots are portrayed in these. I think this is an opportunity. BBC Scotland cannot complain about lack of resources. What they need to do now is to respond to the challenge of this extra money and produce quality programmes in these other areas, not just news and current affairs, that actually reflect Scotland. I think that is what we have in mind.

  62. Do you believe they could better use the resources of the BBC and the World Service and the wide range of contacts that the BBC has within BBC Scotland programmes?
  (Sir Robert Smith) I think you probably could. It is very easy to criticise in detail these areas but yes. A recurring theme, and I actually raise this frequently at Governors' meetings, is that I cannot believe that Rwanda has gone away. I cannot believe it. We have 2,500 UK journalists for the BBC combing every country in the world. We speak 160 languages on the World Service. There seems to be a fashion in the news, that we go for a particular thing and it tends to be flogged to death.

  63. I think development issues have actually declined substantially through all news coverage in the last ten years. I think it may be something like 20 per cent less, and that includes institutions like the BBC. Do you not believe given the events we have had in the last 12 months, that there is a real case for having much better emphasis on that throughout broadcasting services?
  (Mr McCormick) Before Roger takes up the main point, I think it does tie into the point that you made earlier about having the world focus and international perspective in the programmes that we produce in Scotland. As Blair said, we have been trying to do that more and more in recent times. But this is an interesting aside; it is perhaps important to note that producers based in Scotland are also contributing programmes to the World Service, programmes commissioned by the World Service from our colleagues in Aberdeen—long running series as well as weekly diaries and news input into the World Service coming from Scotland. That is a strong development for us.
  (Mr Mosey) I think it is a good point. The two things I would say are firstly, we now have two news channels in BBC News 24 for the UK and BBC World Worldwide, which actually do have the amount of air time that can look at issues in greater depth, and we do that. I think the only caveat as a second point is that the 10 o'clock news every night is only 25 minutes long. In 25 minutes, when you have the commitments we have to reporting the UK, to reporting the world, to reporting the range of stories there are from business or from world affairs, 25 minutes is not very long. Therefore the frustration about it is that our absolutely peak air time is comparatively compressed. Increasingly, people are going to the news channels, like News 24, to be able to get greater depth and greater background and a wider range of stories.
  (Sir Robert Smith) I think the trouble is fitting quarts in to pint pots. There are individual governors like me who believe there should be more business coverage in the national news at 10 o'clock. There are others, like Sir Richard Eyre, who believes there should be more arts coverage and is appalled at the level of arts coverage. If you take 25 minutes of your prime time to cover wars and famines, and so on, it becomes quite difficult.

  Chairman: We are going to move on now to the impact of OFCOM .

Mr Robertson

  64. As you know, the Communications Bill was expected later this year and only last week the second reading of the OFCOM Bill went through. There has been great debate about the BBC and its connection with the Bill, but can I take the generality of what effect on news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland will the establishment of a new media regulator OFCOM likely to have on your company?
  (Mr McCormick) I do not anticipate it having any change at all. Sir Robert, perhaps you want to come in first? As you know the different tiers of the regulatory structure of OFCOM and the BBC's governors, the independence of the BBC's governors is something we have been arguing about. We have always believed in the strength of plurality of regulation. We think that is the right way to regulate a publicly funded broadcasting system. What we're interested ourselves and the Broadcasting Council for Scotland are interested in, is ensuring that when OFCOM is created that the views and opinions of people in Scotland are properly reflected within that structure. We are not too clear what the structure will be and we note the fairly high level and probably a small body at the top with a range of supporting committees. I think it is very important for us that the voices of the different parts of the United Kingdom are reflected in OFCOM and that is something that we are putting particular effort into trying to argue the case for that, to make sure it does not become—and hope it will not become—a body based in London speaking from a South England standpoint, but that it reflects all the range of opinions. In answer to your direct question, however, we would not anticipate it having any direct effect at all on our journalists.

  65. Would that be because the BBC does not come under the OFCOM umbrella—though it is still conceivable as it is still to be debated. My next question is an automatic follow-on from that. Do you not think it is time for the BBC to come under the OFCOM umbrella and be open to the same regulation as companies like the ITV companies?
  (Mr McCormick) As I have said, we have always believed in the strength of the plurality of regulation, and the strength that comes in through a licence fee funded non-commercial body and the unique nature of the BBC, and its unique governance is one of its strengths. We strongly argue that case. It does not mean to say that the standards that OFCOM will set for broadcasting will not apply, in some cases, to the BBC. The different levels of tiers of programme complaints and standards will apply also to the BBC. In fact over the last ten years, the BBC has been the pace-setter in setting producer's guidelines and producer's standards and they have created the benchmark in many cases that other broadcasters have been happy to support and to follow. So there is no sense or any sense that we would expect to get treatment that was different in terms of our public responsibilities. Under our Royal Charter, and with our separate Board of Governors, we feel that has been a strength of the BBC since it was founded nearly 80 years ago. We would like to see that continue. Plurality of regulation and an independent Board of Governors interpreting the Charter for the public good we think is a stronger position to go forward for the BBC than coming under the same umbrella as every other broadcaster.

  66. Do you have an opinion, Sir Robert?
  (Sir Robert Smith) It is the same view, but it does not come from the same hymn sheet necessarily, but it is my view. I actually believe that an OFCOM that is trying to regulate the independent sector and a public service organisation is going to come under tremendous pressure. I think that actually could be to the detriment of the public service service, if you like. I have nothing against regulation. I think regulation should be very strong and I actually think BBC governors exert strong regulation. There are other areas of government that also provide control on these things, like monopolies and various other areas that apply also to the BBC. I think if OFCOM is to come in in a particular way, we have to be sure that it does not damage the independence of the BBC and that pressures do not come on it from commercial aspects from one regulator looking at both commercial and public service. I think it is quite difficult.

  67. Do you not accept, though, that the BBC operates in its own way? It has its own adverts; it advertises itself; it puts itself up in competition against the ITV companies. The BBC itself has changed over the years. So perhaps it is time to bring it in line with everybody else, and to put it under that umbrella.
  (Sir Robert Smith) We do not take advertising on our normal programmes. You say we advertise on our own channels the forthcoming programmes and so on, but we do not take advertising from the public, except in very specialised commercial areas which are very, very highly regulated with a Fair Trading Committee that monitors that. I do not think I would be one, and I guess the independent companies would not argue, for the BBC to take advertising either.
  (Mr McCormick) I think the key factor, for me, as an individual who believes in the BBC and supports it, is that unique system of funding. We are privileged to have the licence fee as a unique system of funding. That brings with it its own scrutiny, rightly. All our other broadcasting competitors are commercially funded and their first obligation is to keep their company solvent, and then deliver a service which they hope will attract the audiences to keep the company solvent and hopefully move into profit. Our pressures are different. Our pressures are making sure that the more than 20 million homes across the UK that pay the licence fee get a return for that licence fee according to public service standards and according to the Royal Charter and the Agreement. It is a completely different set of rules and it is a completely different system of scrutiny. More should be expected of the BBC in terms of public service obligations than you have a right to expect of commercial companies who, at the moment particularly, are undergoing particular pressures in earning their own income. It is a completely different set of circumstances. It does not mean that the programme codes and the programme standards that are expected of the commercial companies will not apply to the BBC. We would gladly accept them and heed them and, perhaps, extend them because we are a publicly funded broadcaster without the commercial pressures of our colleagues in commercial broadcasting.

Mr Sarwar

  68. It is very important that the BBC is aware of the needs of our ethnic minority communities in Scotland and in Britain. Do you think, in terms of programming and in terms of jobs, there is a fair representation of our communities?
  (Mr McCormick) There is a bit to go. One of the key areas to start this change is to improve our system of portrayal. Of course, it begins with employment practice. We set ourselves fairly modest targets in terms of recruitment to match the population within our main centres so recruitment into BBC Scotland matches the pattern of the population within Scotland. That is the same in other parts of the BBC. But we are setting ourselves now with the Board of Governors and with the Broadcasting Council for the next few years more stretching targets than that. We want to make sure that the people who are employed by the BBC are much more socially inclusive than traditionally they have been. I think we have made significant developments, and taken great strides forward, in the past couple of years. We have initiated a number of different projects to stimulate creative work for drama writers' projects; for example, for Asian writers a whole range of new trainee schemes relating to people from different ethnic communities, to make sure that behind the scenes in terms of producing, editing, programming and also on air that will reflect the diversity of the voices across the United Kingdom. We have a decent record of that in Scotland but we are setting ourselves a higher target for the coming year. That is because we benefit from that range of views, of being much more socially inclusive. It does not just extend, Chair, to ethnic minorities; it extends to people from all ranges of backgrounds. We do not want the BBC to be seen to be the middle class white house on the hill. We want it to be socially inclusive and bring people from all around Scotland from different backgrounds and communities. We have developed a number of schemes. We have an "E-Force" scheme to make sure that people who are unemployed, people who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, are offered an opportunity for some training. Then it is up to them if they can transfer that—to equip them better, to apply for a job within the media. We have a whole range of schemes like that under way which we are hoping will bear fruit in terms of the nature of our population and the jobs we are providing over the next couple of years.
  (Sir Robert Smith) Can I just say this. On BBC wide, can I assure Mr Sarwar that Greg Dyke and his senior management team are very sincere and very tough on this. They are absolutely determined to get certain levels, percentages, and they have set pretty tough targets in that area. There is a huge hunt on just now for talent—new talent—around the UK.

Mr Carmichael

  69. Just very briefly on the point, first of all, about the BBC being under the same regulations as commercial organisations. I think your point is a good one, John, that you are not comparing like with like. I would just, however, float past you the possibility that some of the operations that the BBC is part of, such as the Teletubby merchandising aspect of your operations, is very commercial and as long as you persist in taking part in that sort of activity, then that is going to be a difficulty for you. I think the BBC has maybe got some choices to make in that regard. To come back to the point of OFCOM, which is where we started originally, I think, John, it is probably better directed perhaps to Sir Robert about all the different parts of the United Kingdom being represented within OFCOM. I have a particular concern that, in fact, if we have Scottish representations within OFCOM that is going to be problematic because there are different competing regional interests within Scotland. Are you satisfied that the Government's proposals would be sufficient, for example, to meet the difficulties which were experienced by Grampian following their takeover by the Scottish Media Group a few years ago which led to fairly heavy criticism from Oftel?
  (Sir Robert Smith) I am not clear there is sufficient detail in the proposals just now which tells us what exactly would happen in Scotland and would happen regionally. There are several different models which have been talked about in OFCOM for covering Scotland. There is, obviously, a concern for the Broadcasting Council. At the moment this is a Scottish body of people who look at the output in Scotland and we try as hard as we can to represent Elgin as well as the central belt. Exactly how OFCOM go about this, and whether this would be London centric or whether they would have a branch that reported it, I really do not know and there is not sufficient detail in the Bill yet, as far as I know, that would tell you.

  70. We only have the proposal.
  (Mr McCormick) I wonder if I might, Chairman, just add a point on Mr Carmichael's point about the commercial revenues in the BBC because it is an interesting issue. BBC Worldwide, which markets the BBC's products internationally, the profits from those go back into domestic production to supplement the licence fee to provide better services for viewers and listeners across the UK. It is a kind of virtuous circle in one way. I think if the BBC was keeping its programmes and its product potential associated with that and keeping it under the bed, as it were, in a trunk and not exploiting it to the benefit of viewers and listeners I think we would be open to criticism as well. I think there are very, very strict commercial policy guidelines which the Governors monitor very, very closely on the way that the BBC markets products and the way that it sells its programmes internationally. With the opening up of digital television around the world there are many, many more service providers but there are very, very few who are producing indigenous programming material. There is a voracious market for, as they call it in the business, product and the BBC is a brand name and people want to buy those programmes from the BBC and show them internationally. That is an opportunity which brings revenue back into the BBC to supplement the licence fee and we benefit from that directly in Scotland. Monarch of the Glen, for example, is the biggest seller the BBC has at the moment internationally. Now that helps us in reinvestment in other programmes down the line in Scotland and that benefits into the production community in Scotland. I think the other searching question to ask would be if we were not doing that, and, as it were, keeping everything to ourselves and not exploiting the commercial potential, as long as it is properly regulated, as it is, by the Governors committee.
  (Sir Robert Smith) In fact we were criticised, people were saying we were sitting on rights. Would you believe that sometimes we did not actually keep the international rights to some of these things in the early days. When we went to look at Bill and Ben or whatever, we had not really thought about the commercial potential of some of these things but we were criticised for sitting on valuable property and not doing anything. Provided the money, as John says, goes back in, and last year it amounted to something like £90 million of cash flow went back into programme production, and provided it is a level playing field, we are not artificially subsidising our commercial operation, then I think it is fair. We monitor that very, very carefully. We keep very careful notes of what we are doing on that side because we know the other criticism will be levelled at us.

Mr Lyons

  71. Going back to the point Mohammed raised a minute ago, the question of the BBC trying to reflect Scottish society. If we go along in future to Pacific Quay, we would be comfortable with that social inclusion of Scottish society, is that what you are saying?
  (Mr McCormick) That is our aim, Mr Lyons. One of the great advantages, frankly, of moving to Pacific Quay is that the building will be much more open. The building will welcome people in. Most of our buildings within the BBC, and certainly the 11 staff centres we have in Scotland, all but one of them were built in the 19th century so although they have been adapted for broadcasting purposes they are not exactly models inviting people in. You would have the joy if you walked in to Pacific Quay of being able to see on monitors everything that was happening in the building, what was happening around Scotland and be able to have a route that was safe and secure to see the operation. We will be positively welcoming people in to that building. We are starting discussions with businesses in the community as to ways as to how we can start the work with the local community now, to talk to local schools and community groups as to what the Pacific Quay project means, so we can explain to them what is coming on the site, what we hope to achieve by it. So by the time we go there we hope the community will have a better understanding of what we are trying to do and what we might in our own way bring to the community. It is something we will be working with our own staff on and working with the communities in Govan and Finnieston.

  72. If we came along to Dumbarton to see even if High Roads
  (Mr McCormick) We do not call it that. I find the development at Dumbarton so exciting I would defy anybody not to get excited and spend half an hour on that site and see what is done on the old JV site. Certainly we would welcome, if anybody is interested, anybody coming to see that development, to see it in the first quarter of this year and then come back and see it in six months' time when the programmes are in production. It is a very, very exciting development for the whole of Scotland. It is very welcome.


  73. Perhaps you would like to say something about the anticipated impact on news and current affairs broadcasting in Scotland of the advent of the digital age?
  (Mr McCormick) That is a big one, Chairman, to finish on. I just think it means more choice. We have been talking about on-line, which is one of the advantages of the digital age. Certainly within radio more services, in television more services and as the technology becomes cheaper it means, also, that within our production processes we can be much more up to date. We can provide a wider range of services, much more inter-activity, getting closer to the audience so the audience communication is much more direct which means you get a better feedback from the audience directly. The whole e-mail culture has changed the nature of a lot of our programmes. As anybody who listens to Radio Scotland will be aware, the e-mails flood in all the time and there is a demand for information, so we feel we are getting closer to the audiences. In the fullness of time over a five or ten-year period the main benefit of digital will be more choice in what the BBC provides to you so you can make the choice of a range of services whereas with analogue spectrum we were restricted to maybe one or two services. Extending choice is the greatest benefit.

  74. Is it getting closer to the audience or is it just getting closer to the chattering classes again?
  (Mr McCormick) Time will tell. I am genuinely surprised at the range of e-mails and the age and range of people who contact us and hit on our web sites for news, for chat, for whatever. I think we are getting to a wider audience than simply the chattering classes but it is an important point. People using the Internet are quite a wide demographic group.
  (Sir Robert Smith) And the young in particular.
  (Mr McCormick) People of all ages phoning into programmes. On Janice Forsyth's programme on Sunday morning, a Scot living in Copenhagen doing his ironing participated in the competition, something we could not have dreamt of years ago. He said the Net kept him in touch with Scottish affairs, and when he listened to Radio Scotland on the Net he did not feel like somebody who was cut off from his community because he was working there for a couple of years. There are all those important advantages and one of the direct advantages, for example, is that it does overcome some transmission problems. Later next month Radio nan Gaidheal goes on digital satellite which means that everybody who speaks Gaelic in the United Kingdom who wants to access that Gaelic radio service will be able to access that service, a very, very important development for relatively modest investment.

Mr Joyce

  75. It seems to me that this is a really exciting time for news and current affairs with digitisation, I hope BBC3 in the future, and the options for choice and diversity are huge. There are all sorts of exciting debates taking place right across Scotland and the UK—and I have been lucky enough to attend a couple of meetings down here with the BBC. Are they the terms and factors and variables that will dominate debate and discussion over the next few years to come or will we be flung back to this hackneyed, sterile debate about yea or nay for a Scottish service?
  (Mr McCormick) We are seizing the opportunities that digital presents. This is so fast-changing—and you have hinted at that yourself in your question—that we could not have anticipated the rate of change both behind the screen in terms of production facilities even two years ago. There is a range of opportunities opening up to us. There are now two versions of BBC2 available in Scotland. That provides us with a whole range of opportunities to do all sorts of things on the BBC2 service without depriving people of the wider BBC2 service across the UK. We would not have anticipated that development even two years ago.
  (Mr Mosey) Digital is incredibly exciting. News gathering can be hugely more ambitious. We can bring live pictures in very quickly and all the rest of it. The wider danger is that you lose something which allows all of us to talk to each other in a national debate. The answer to that is what the BBC can do is sometimes put together a lot of services and a lot of strands in the digital era and bring them together for the debate. John mentioned the NHS Day which is not going to just involve BBC1 and the Nations, it will also involve News 24 and Radio 4 and the web sites and bring everybody together. So even if you do get fragmenting audiences and people choose to watch things in different media and different environments, you can still bring the national debate together on the occasions when that is necessary. It sounds like a ghastly bit of BBC propaganda, but I think it is true, that the BBC is still best placed to do that.

Mr Robertson

  76. I am very supportive of the BBC. I know you might not think so because of some of the questions I have asked you, but I am very supportive and as somebody who watches particularly BBC2. I raised the point with you last year, John (and you may not remember) where I said that the quality of the BBC digital channels was poor, particularly BBC Choice. It has improved but it is still the mundane programmes where they have half hour bites and we do not get some of the good quality programmes that the BBC have that I miss. I was looking for the BBC to show these kinds of programmes. My question to you is this: are all these channels that you are going to bring into service going to detract from the quality of BBC programmes, something for which you are renowned?
  (Mr McCormick) I hope not. It is a fair question. The budgets for BBC3 and BBC4 necessarily at this stage are much smaller than for BBC1 and BBC2 which are universally available. One of the great challenges for the BBC over this transitional period is marketing. It is Government policy to encourage digital take-up so that we can proceed with analogue switch-off at a particular time. One of the great challenges as the children's channels are launched and BBC4 is launched and then, if Government gives the go ahead, BBC3 is launched, is that we will be marketing those channels on BBC1 and BBC2 at the moment to a population where the majority of people do not have access to them, the idea being that you have to buy a new piece of equipment to enable yourself to have access to these services. That is part of the whole take-up—that we believe these channels will be attractive enough for people to want to invest in that. But it is a very, very difficult decision that the Governors had to take, I believe one of the most difficult in the history of the BBC as to what proportion of the licence fee investment should go into these new digital channels before they are universally available, so the challenge for my colleagues in BBC3 and BBC4 is to make those with smaller budgets—because the lion's share of the budget should rightly go into BBC1 and BBC2 that are universally available for people paying the licence fee—but to make them attractive enough, along with the BBC's archives and using the quality of BBC programmes that people want to see, and there is a vast number of people who do want to see BBC programmes again. I think the combination of BBC1 and BBC2 plus BBC3 and BBC4 will give different emphasis to different types of programmes. I think you as a BBC supporter will be finding yourself turning to BBC4 more and more when it comes on the air in March, which will have international news every night, which will be showing a range of foreign language films that you do not get to see on the other channels, which will be having a challenging set of arts documentaries and performance of the arts involving the Scottish Symphony Orchestra, among others, which will bring a whole range of things which we do not have the space to do at the moment on BBC2. It is extending the proposition and making the portfolio much more attractive. As we move into the majority of the population having digital and then into analogue switch-off, it, then it becomes justifiable for the BBC to say to the people of Britain "we are balancing up the budgets between these channels because they are now all universally available".

Mr Lazarowicz

  77. I can see there is the possibility of doing something exciting. However, this question of quality does lead on to the question of resources, does it not? Looking at the specific question of news and current affairs broadcasting, which is the subject of our inquiry, it is attractive to see the possibility that at some stage, instead of having to choose between the Scottish Six or the BBC News or Newsnight, you can just watch any region, you can watch TV Edinburgh or TV Orkney, you can choose all this at the same time. When is this going to happen and how realistic is the possibility in the near future? Are we going to have these kinds of debates about the Scottish Six in three, four or five years' time? When will this change actually happen and do you have the resources to allow it to happen in Scotland? Do you have the resources to allow choice to take place in the region?
  (Mr McCormick) The specific example of BBC2, the choice is available at the moment, anybody can choose between two versions of BBC2 so if you have that choice at the moment if you are in a digital home you can choose Newsnight Scotland or Newsnight UK. Certainly as we move through the next period, BBC1 Scotland is not available in the rest of the UK, it is encrypted for the rest of the UK, so there is only one version of BBC1 Scotland. We are discussing at the moment whether two versions of BBC1 should be made and could be made available on satellite. It is a complicated issue tied up with sports' rights and other rights at the moment. We would like, as a matter of policy, to enable two versions of BBC1 and two versions of BBC2 to be available, one version of BBC3 which we contribute to and one version of BBC4. That then opens up all the opportunities that we can then decide to put our priorities to the resources as to where we think they would have best effect and meet the audience demand. I do not think it is too long away but at the moment there is only one version of BBC1 available in any part of the United Kingdom, I would hope we are talking in two or three years' time there might be two versions which would open up all these possibilities.


  78. Thank you very much, gentlemen. You will be glad to know we have exhausted all of our questions to you. If there are any other points you would like to make please feel free to do so now.
  (Sir Robert Smith) Perhaps just a couple of things. We have talked about the increased resources from about £95 to £160 million. The hope is—and I know it is outside the news and current affairs area—that will help us to build up in factual and entertainment and other areas which will get BBC Scotland creating a very healthy independent sector as well as home grown sector in Scotland which will perhaps rival the pre-eminence we have in children's television where we are known second only to the big operation in London. I think the money that is mentioned is in addition to all of the money that we are spending on Pacific Quay, that is a move of headquarters which is additional money altogether. In case there is anything after the robust performance here, in case you think it is all complacency, the Broadcasting Council keeps a watch on these characters. There have been a couple of examples just in the last year where we have given them a hard time on transmission problems in South West Scotland which has now been addressed and where we were concerned about Europe, that is being addressed. It is not a sleeping watchdog here, we do shake them up from time to time but generally we believe that they are doing a good job. Gaelic has not been mentioned. It might not be a burning issue in the halls of Westminster but it is important to a number of people. BBC Scotland gets very high marks for what it produces there on news and current affairs. We were mentioning Europe earlier and maybe coverage could be improved. Let me tell you there is a programme Eorpa, even if you just look at the subtitles it is the best European programme in my view on television anywhere. It tells you about real issues in Europe. Finally, can I say we will be looking at news and current affairs after the Scottish Parliament has risen and that will be after May next year. I wish we had different vocabulary other than Scottish 6 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.

  79. Thank you. John?
  (Mr McCormick) May I just add a sentence at the end, Chairman. We are very interested in this discussion this morning and thank you very much for allowing us the opportunity to talk about our work. Certainly if any Members want to come and visit any part of our operation or ask one of us or some of our colleagues to come and give a briefing here about what we are up to and what we are planning to be up to so there is closer interrogation of any aspect of it, certainly we would welcome that. We welcome going over the Pacific Quay plans with anybody, taking you to the site in Dumbarton and seeing what goes on behind the scenes at Queen Margaret Drive or in Edinburgh or in Broadcasting House in Glasgow. You would be very welcome. Thank you for this opportunity.

   Chairman: Thank you very much indeed, gentlemen. Your evidence will be very helpful to us when it comes to making our report. Thank you very much.

3   Ev 5. Back

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