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Thursday, 4 August 2016

MPs Back Calls for 'Scottish Six' BBC News Bulletin


Pressure is growing on the BBC to introduce a new 'Scottish Six' news bulletin, in place of the current BBC News at Six.

Under current arrangements the BBC's 6 pm television news programme in Scotland is split into two parts: the main news stories, whether international or relating to the UK (in whole or in part), are presented from Broadcasting House in London; while Scottish news is presented from Pacific Quay in Glasgow.

This can result in a lot of England-only content, which is of no relevance to Scotland post-devolution (e.g. matters relating to health, education and justice) dominating the programme. There is also little opportunity to present major UK or international stories from a Scottish perspective.

In its 3rd Report on The BBC White Paper and related issues, the influential House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said: "The BBC has acknowledged that there is dissatisfaction with this situation. We were told that it has tested three different 'Scottish Six' pilots to replace the existing programming.

"The first option would be a slightly tweaked version of the current programme.

"The second option would be a news programme which had Scottish, UK and international news with a running order based on editorial news values, and broadcast from Scotland.

"The third option would be a hybrid; two studios would be operated and the show would be topped and tailed in Scotland, with the Scottish presenter introducing Scottish items, whilst crossing to a London studio for UK and international news."


The BBC's Scotland Director, Ken McQuarrie, told the Committee that all three options had been piloted and he was equally happy with the outcome of each. Surprisingly, Mr McQuarrie said that he had not discussed with the new Head of BBC Scotland News, Gary Smith, which option he preferred.

The SNPs John Nicholson MP, a former broadcaster who sits on the Committee, said: "I think the general view of the committee was that it’s time the BBC made up its mind and moved on this. The most intellectually coherent option from the witness statements that we'd heard was for the independent Scottish Six."

The Committee dismissed the idea of a hybrid programme as "needlessly extravagent" and "patronising" to Scottish viewers.

Instead, it indicated a preference for the second option - namely a news programme anchored in Scotland, with a running order of Scottish, UK and international stories based on news merit, drawing on all the BBC's facilities and broadcast from Scotland.

A spokesman for BBC Scotland said it "would hope to be in a position later this year to provide more detail on how we intend to improve our overall service provision in Scotland".

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