New TV channel for BBC in Scotland

A new TV channel for the BBC in Scotland will begin broadcasting in autumn 2018, director general Tony Hall has announced.

The channel will have a budget of £30m, equivalent to the amount spent on BBC4.

The plans for the channel include a Scottish hour at 9pm which will broadcast stories from Scotland, the UK and the world.

The director-general also announced an increase of about £20m a year for Scotland to make UK-wide programmes.

He said this would be focused on drama and factual programming.

The key points of the new channel - which will be called BBC Scotland - are:

  • A "prominent" slot on the Electronic Programme Guide
  • Broadcast from 7pm to midnight every evening
  • A £30m budget for the new channel - £19m new money and £11m from current BBC2 opts
  • Integrated hour-long news programme at 9pm, edited and presented from Scotland
  • 80 new posts for journalists

Lord Hall described it as the biggest single investment in broadcast content in Scotland for more than 20 years.

Scotland should receive about £40m in new funding annually - £19m for the new channel and digital developments, and £20m for making network programmes.

It is hoped that spending on network programmes made in Scotland for a UK-wide BBC audience will rise from about £65m this year to closer to £90m over the next three years.

The new BBC TV channel for Scotland will broadcast every evening and will show drama, factual, comedy and news programmes made in Scotland.

The development of a nightly news hour at 9pm means that the news output on BBC One in Scotland will remain in its current form.

There had been calls for a Scottish Six, which would integrate the main BBC News at Six from London and Reporting Scotland in a news hour that would provide UK, Scottish and international stories from Scotland.

The proposals for a Scottish Six were in response to criticism that the Six O'Clock News often featured stories - for example on education and health - that had little relevance to Scottish audiences.

Image caption Reporting Scotland presents Scottish news after the main Six O'Clock News from London

The Scottish government argued the BBC needed to "catch up" with devolution and to give its Scottish operation greater control of budgets, staffing and decision making.

However, the BBC said the BBC News at Six had performed strongly in Scotland in recent years.

It said the 9pm news slot on the new channel offered the audience choice and quality and would provide comprehensive reporting of the news from a Scottish perspective.

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: "We know that viewers in Scotland love BBC television but we also know that they want us to better reflect their lives and better reflect modern Scotland.

"The best way of achieving this is a dedicated channel for Scotland.

"It's a channel that will be bold, creative and ambitious, with a brand-new Scotland-edited international news programme at its heart."

Lord Hall said Scotland already made network programmes such as Shetland, Two Doors Down and Still Game but it needed to make more.

He said the additional £20m for making UK-wide programmes would be a "huge boost for BBC Scotland and for the creative industries in Scotland".

The director-general also announced £1.2m for Gaelic channel BBC Alba, taking its budget to £20m.

The proposals will be subject to approval by the BBC's new unitary board and possibly by Ofcom.

The announcement on Scottish funding followed the BBC saying an extra £8.5m a year would be spent on programmes made in Wales.

Plans for Northern Ireland will be announced shortly.

Image caption Donalda MacKinnon took up the post of director of BBC Scotland in December

When she took over as BBC Scotland's new director in December, Donalda MacKinnon pledged to spend more licence fee funds raised north of the border on programming produced in Scotland.

In 2015/16, 55% of licence fee funds raised in Scotland was spent on local and Scottish network content.

The BBC's 2015/16 accounts showed £320m was raised from the licence fee in Scotland. Of that, £176.5m was spent on local content and Scottish-made BBC network output.

This was a sharp decline from the £203m spend the previous year, which was 63% of the £323m collected. The funds not spent locally go towards BBC programmes developed elsewhere and aired across the UK.

In comparison, 95% of licence fee funds raised in Wales in 2015/16 were spent in Wales - including on network-wide programmes like Doctor Who, Sherlock, Casualty and Crimewatch - with the figure for Northern Ireland standing at 74%.


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