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Sunday, 3 January 2016

BBC Accused of Short-Changing Scotland


The BBC has been accused of cheating Scottish TV licence fee payers, by subverting its own policy of funding the Nations.

For the last seven years the BBC has volunteered to commission just under a fifth of its network programming from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, the BBC Director General, Tony Hall, is likely receive a frosty reception when he attends the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee later this month, amid claims the Corporation isn't sticking to the spirit of the deal.

Lord Hall is due to give evidence to MSPs as part of the Committee's inquiry into BBC Charter renewal. He is due to visit Edinburgh on 12th January 2016.

According to Glasgow-based production company Matchlight, the BBC's sleight of hand is costing the Scottish economy around £50m a year.

In a written statement to the inquiry, Managing Director, David Smith, said: "Since 2008 the BBC has deliberately worked with non-Scottish production companies... to undermine and frustrate the purposes of the Scottish quota on an industrial scale."

Mr Smith highlighted a practise known as "Lift and Shift", whereby London-based production companies set up small branch offices north of the border in order to meet the Scottish production quota.

He continued: "Without adding 1p to the BBC's network content budgets the Corporation could add between £30million and £50million to Scotland's creative economy simply by moving away from Lift and Shift."

Stewart Maxwell MSP, the SNP convener of the Committee, has written to Lord Hall in the following terms: "Please respond to points made in a written submission to the Committee from Matchlight regarding how the BBC’s commissioning practise has operated to subvert the spirit of the current Nations quota.

"Specifically, is it appropriate to set 100 per cent of a project’s budget against the Scottish/Nations quota when a lesser share of the overall budget is actually spent in Scotland on that production?"

As the largest BBC Nation, BBC Scotland produces a range of programming for the UK wide network, although the amount has dwindled in recent years. It also produces a number of Scotland-only opt outs.

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