Memorandum submitted by SMG Television
Scottish Television & Grampian
Television are regional, not national broadcasters. Both companies
are licensed to broadcast by the ITC and have explicit and stated
commitments to make programmes for and about their respective,
clearly defined areas. These regional programmes858 hours
per annum for Scottish and 400 hours for Grampianare made
up of a broad range of genres but their core is News and Current
Under the 1990 and 1996 Broadcasting
Acts, the ITV companies are mandated to carry a national news
service supplied by a Nominated News Provider. This will continue
under OFCOM, the new regulator set up in the forthcoming Communications
The structure of Scottish and Grampian's
news and current affairs output post-devolution has not altered
significantly but programming content has, reflecting the fact
that the majority of issues affecting and of most interest to
our viewers is devolved to Holyrood.
All Current Affairs programmes made
by Scottish and Grampian are broadcast in both regions.
Both companies maintain a Westminster
Correspondent (as prior to devolution) who contributes to regional
news bulletins on Reserved Issues.
Staffing has expanded post-devolution,
to include a Scottish Political Correspondent, a Parliamentary
Producer and the number of Edinburgh-based journalists has expanded
from 5 to 10, demonstrating the importance and newsworthiness
of the capital city in a devolved Scotland.
Recent research carried out by the
ITC (Public Service Broadcasting: What Viewers Want, January 2001)
found that News was one of the most important genres broadcast
by ITV. News coverage, both regional and national was considered
1.1 Grampian Television and Scottish Television
cover a hugely diverse area, with two thousand miles of coastline,
many islands, several dialects and two languages. The stations
have production centres in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee
and Inverness. We broadcast to an audience of nearly 5 million
people which constitutes 10 per cent of the UK television audience.
Scottish and Grampian's regional programming reflects their own
unique areas and Scotland's different political, legal, educational
and religious institutions. In addition, we have to take account
of cultural differences and a national sports infrastructure and
1.2 Both stations are part of the ITV network
of 15 distinct franchises. The federal nature of ITV is such that
there is a core network schedule of programmes, including News
and Current Affairs, funded by the owners of the 15 franchises.
Income from advertising is the major source of revenue for the
channel accounting for well over 80 per cent of the divisional
income. Each franchise holder pays for the core schedule on an
"ability to pay" basis which is determined by each area's
share of ITV's total revenue.
1.3 In addition to the core network of programmes,
each company also has regional programming commitments as part
of its licence that is awarded by the Independent Television Commission
(the ITC). The number of regional hours varies from company to
company and formed part of the franchise bid. For Scottish, the
level is currently 16.5 hours of original production per week;
for Grampian 7 hrs 40 minutes. Smaller companies such as Border
and Channel TV produce as little as five hours per week. News
and current affairs are at the heart of that regional service
and have a minimum requirement. The network's news service is
provided by ITN who have recently been awarded the contract for
a further seven years. ITN's function is to provide national and
international news to complement the regional news provided by
programmes such as Scotland Today and North Tonight.
All of the ITV companies have access to material from ITN for
use in regional programmes if required and of relevance. There
is also a reciprocal agreement between Scottish and Grampian to
transmit some of each other's output. For example, Platform
and Crossfire transmit in both regions, essentially giving
current affairs pan-Scotland coverage.
1.4 ITV spends £1billion a year on
original production for the core national schedule and each company's
regional commitments. This is Europe's largest budget for a commercial
channel and ITV's ability to sustain this investment is dependent
upon its ability to derive advertising revenue through the creation
of an audience that is commercially valuable to advertisers.
2.1 This year Scottish Television will produce
and broadcast over 460 hours of news and current affairs programmes
for viewers in the Scottish Television franchise area. The Scottish
Television news and current affairs department employs some 60
journalists and editorial staff, and is based in our Glasgow and
Edinburgh newsrooms, with Parliamentary Correspondents on the
Mound and at Westminster.
2.2 The structure of our news and current
affairs programming is as follows.
30 minute Monday to Friday news programme broadcast at 180 to
an audience of up to half a million Scots. The programme is the
current holder of the Royal Television Society Award for the Best
Regional News Programme in Britain.
Lunchtime Scotland Todaydaily
30 minute Monday to Friday news and features magazine programme
broadcast at 13.10 to an audience of up to 180,000 Scots.
from 05.25 to 23.30 Monday to Friday and twice daily at weekends.
evening 30 minute political programme broadcast for approximately
20 weeks each year at 23.30 to an audience of between 100,00 and
7 Daysweekly 60 minute
Sunday morning news and current affairs programme broadcast for
36 weeks of the year to an audience of between 70,000 and 100,000
Scotland Today Specialsmonthly
30 minute current affairs programme broadcast on Tuesday evenings
at 1930 to an audience of between 200,00 and 300,000 Scots.
Election and By-election
Specials and Results programmesthis year, for
the General Election, we co-produced The Scottish 500 with
Grampian Television (a 60 minute audience debate programme broadcast
in peak time), and Election Face to Face (a 30 minute single
interview programme), together with through the night results'
programming and a "day two" special results programme.
Also this year, we produce two hour-long
one-off documentaries, The Salmond Years and The Dewar
2.3 Scottish Television also broadcasts
the following political programmes produced by Grampian Television:
Crossfirea weekly Thursday
evening 30 minute political programme broadcast for approximately
20 weeks each year at 23.30, to an audience of between 100,00
and 140,000 Scots (in the weeks Platform is not on air).
The Week in PoliticsThursday
evening 30 minute review programme looking at events in the Scottish
Politician of the Yearannual
one-hour political awards programme broadcast in late November.
3.1 The structure of programming has not
changed significantly since devolution. All the Scottish Television
news and current affairs programmes currently shown were broadcast
prior to devolution. The Week in Politics and Politician
of the Year, made by Grampian Television but also broadcast
on Scottish Television, are new to our schedules and are being
made as a consequence of devolution.
4.1 The content of our existing programmes
has altered significantly in the post-devolution era.
4.2 Scotland Today is the main evening
news programme regularly watched by up to half a million Scots.
In its thirty-year history the programme has always covered political
and parliamentary matters. Traditionally it has had a Westminster
Correspondent and a Political Correspondent. However, postdevolution,
the political staffing has been expanded to include a Scottish
Political Correspondent and Parliamentary Producer to cover Holyrood
and a new Political Editor, in addition to the Westminster staff.
4.3 The programme's Edinburgh staffing has
also been increased, from five to ten journalists, to reflect
the increased importance of the capital, and to provide additional
non-specialist journalists to report on policy matters relating
to the Scottish Parliament.
4.4 Taken together, these changes mean that
typically there are many more political and parliamentary news
stories covered on Scotland Today.
4.5 The programme's agenda, in common with
all the other national and regional news services in the ITV network,
is principally concerned with domestic news stories. UK and International
stories are covered in the ITV news, broadcast immediately after
4.6 Given this concentration on domestic
Scottish issues, it is inevitable that devolution has had a profound
impact on content. When the bulk of domestic policy responsibilities
was devolved to Edinburgh, as regional broadcasters, our news
programming had to reflect this change.
4.7 It is on the Mound that our elected
MSPs debate the issues that matter most to our viewershealth,
education, law and order, jobs, housing, transport and the environment.
The new Parliament has allowed much more detailed scrutiny of
these issues and in turn has given broadcasters the opportunity
to report on these important areas more often and in a more relevant
way for our viewers.
4.8 However, at times of major national
stories such as the current crisis, ITN provides coverage and
context for our viewers. ITN also provides us with national coverage
of the General Election and we contribute to this coverage, reporting
Scottish results to viewers throughout the UK.
4.9 Prior to devolution our news programming
might only deal with one political story a night. It is now common
for Scotland Today to carry three reports from the Mound.
These pieces will not always be straight reportage of a debate,
but will more typically deal with a relevant policy issue, seeking
reaction from Ministers and MSPs, attempting to demonstrate how
the policy proposal or debate is impacting on our viewers' daily
4.10 On important domestic policy issues,
devolution has undoubtedly led to improved accountability. Holding
to account a small number of Scottish Office Ministers based for
at least part of their working week in London was not always easy.
It was often difficult to secure access to relevant ministerial
interviewees. It is now much easier for broadcasters to get access
to the relevant responsible Minister and to hold that Minister
to account in interviews or live appearances in our programmes.
4.11 In the first months of devolution the
novelty of this access and indeed the novelty of the Scottish
Parliament itself led Scottish Television, in common with other
broadcasters to concentrate almost exclusively on Edinburgh. We
temporarily withdrew our correspondent from Westminster and only
covered the Commons on an ad hoc basis. However it soon became
clear that important stories were still emerging from London.
4.12 Powers retained at Westminster on issues
like social security still had an impact on our viewers' lives
and we re-appointed, with Grampian Television, an experienced
Westminster Correspondent. The post remains today and Scotland
Today regularly reports from London on UK Parliamentary matters.
4.13 The running orders for three fairly
typical editions of Scotland Today from the past 10 years
are attached in Appendix One.
They cover programmes broadcast on the 1st March 2001, 1st March
1996 and 1st March 1991. We also enclose VHS copies of the three
4.14 The most recent programme includes
a live interview with the Scottish Executive Minister directly
responsible for the main issue of the day, dealing with the Foot
and Mouth outbreak. It also covers drug policy and a report on
the Freedom of Information legislation proposed by the Executive.
In comparison with the earlier programmes coverage of issues is
clearly improved, and the programme can be seen to be holding
a Minister to account. Prior to devolution, this level of accountability
was far less frequent and more difficult to achieve. For a summary
of the political stories covered in the three programmes see (2).
4.15 Other political programmingagain,
in Platform and 7 days, content has altered significantly
since devolution. Where issues that have been devolved to Edinburgh
are under discussion, MSPs appear regularly. But the programmes
often deal with UK and International politics and MPs also appear
regularly. In the coverage of the current conflict in Afghanistan,
MPs have been interviewed frequently both in packages and live
reports. In the run up to and during the recent general election,
Westminster MPs received significant levels of coverage. Indeed,
on election night, Scottish and Grampian Television reported from
more Parliamentary seats than ever before, filming some 55 results.
While the structure of news and current affairs
broadcasting at Scottish Television has not changed significantly
since devolution, the content of programmes has altered. Politics
is covered on news programmes more often and in a more detailed
manner than before 1999. The focus has inevitably been on the
Scottish Parliament but Westminster remains important and is covered
regularly in news and political programming.
1. News Programmes
1.1 Broadcasting of news and current affairs
at Grampian Television has undergone a variety of changes since
the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. These changes have
occurred in terms of structure and content in three general programme
North Tonight, the nightly
Other existing programmes such as
Crossfire & Grampian Midweek
New programmes now produced as a
result of the Parliament.
1.2 North Tonight is the main nightly
news programme is Grampian Television's flagship programme. It
broadcasts five nights a week between 1800 and 1830. The establishment
of the Scottish Parliament has not in any way altered the fact
that we make such a programme, and if the Parliament did not exist,
we would still be making North Tonight in full compliance
with our licence commitments, as regulated by the ITC. This bulletin
has always contained items related to parliamentary matters. However,
since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament, there is no
doubt that we have focussed considerable attention on events there.
This is a clear response to a change in the way we are governed
in Scotland. Important devolved matters such as health, education
and legal affairs are debated and discussed on a daily basis and
we are there to cover them. We have a political correspondent
and a researcher working full time in Edinburgh for that reason.
This does not mean, however, that we have abandoned Westminster.
For a brief spell after 1999, we re-located our political correspondent
to Edinburgh and covered Westminster on an ad hoc basis. It soon
emerged that there was still much news of importance to Grampian
viewers to report at Westminster. As a result we re-established,
with Scottish Television, our sister broadcaster in Scotland,
our Westminster correspondent. That remains the current position.
Running Orders and scripts for three selected programmes from
1997-2001 are contained in Appendix Two.
2. Current Affairs Programmes
2.1 The key programme in this category is
Crossfire, Grampian's weekly political programme. Crossfire
transmits approximately 20 programmes per year, and its function
is simple to cover the political scene in Scotland, with
particular reference to Grampian viewers, in more depth. This
is exactly what the programme does. Again, as with North Tonight,
Crossfire would be produced even if there were no Scottish
Parliament. However, the existence of the Parliament means we
cover in some detail the events that take place there.
2.2 Our Westminster correspondent contributes
on a regular basis to the programme, and we ensure Westminster
receives attention, particularly at times of major national stories
such as the current crisis in Afghanistan and when reserved matters
are the subjects of debate. We also make sure local MPs are able
to access these programmes where appropriate.
2.3 The other programme affected by devolution
is our weekly social action programme, Grampian Midweek.
Here, most of the issues the programme covers are devolved and
therefore it is not surprising that our main government focus
is the Scottish Parliament.
3. New Programmes
3.1 There are now two new programmes produced
by Grampian Television directly as a consequence of the existence
of the Scottish Parliament. The Week In Politics was commissioned
by Grampian TV to look at events on the floor of the Parliament
and in the committee rooms with particular reference to Grampian
viewers. It is a unique programme, and it usually occupies the
slot immediately after Crossfire, so creating a strong
political zone in our Thursday night broadcasting. The programme
has a small but influential audience, and is now seen as an important
part of our political programming in the new parliamentary landscape.
The other programme which has come into existence specifically
because of devolution is The Scottish Politician of the Year.
Awards in the programme include Scottish Parliament Politician
of the Year, Backbencher of the Year, Debater of the Year, MSP
to Watch, and, crucially, Westminster Politician of the Year.
It is fair to say such a programme would not exist if the Scottish
Parliament did not.
In conclusion, it is clear that in some ways
devolution has not affected news and current affairs broadcasting
in Scotland. Many of the programmes we make would have been made
anyway. But content is different. Westminster remains an important
source of news and current affairs, but by definition, devolution
has caused us to look elsewhere for many of the stories we cover.
1 Not published, available from SMG Television. Back
Not published, available from SMG Television. Back