View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

  1. News
May 3, 2024

BBC plan to cut TV news in Scotland set to be cleared by Ofcom

The BBC wants to cut evening news on BBC Scotland from one hour to 30 minutes.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Ofcom has said it is likely to approve a plan to halve the amount of peak evening news programming on the BBC Scotland channel.

BBC Scotland currently airs the hour-long The Nine at 9pm on Mondays to Thursdays and The Seven at 7pm for either 30 minutes or an hour on Fridays. The Seven also airs for 15 minutes from 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays respectively.

The BBC has asked Ofcom if it can replace the weekday news programmes with a 30-minute version at 7pm every weekday.

This would be “more informal and accessible” compared to Reporting Scotland (which airs from 6.30pm to 7pm) on BBC One Scotland, and “aim to be more local and get around Scotland more”.

The BBC wants Ofcom to change the requirement in the operating licence for the BBC Scotland channel to air at least 250 hours of news in peak viewing time per year, reducing this to 125 hours. In 2022/23 BBC Scotland broadcast 278 hours of news in peak viewing time.

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

BBC Scotland, which airs content aimed at Scottish audiences between 7pm to midnight daily, launched in February 2019 with The Nine as its flagship daily news hour. It was said ahead of launch that more than 80 jobs in news would be created as a result.

Content from our partners
New technology from EX.CO helps publishers double on-site video revenue
Five ways to fail in media job interviews
How Germany's Ippen.Media mastered content planning across 86 newsrooms

Ofcom noted that viewership to The Nine has gone down every year since 2020, with a three-minute consecutive weekly reach of 156,000 people in 2020/21 to 101,000 in 2023. The BBC said The Nine “does hold its own” against rival programmes from Sky News but that “it has the lowest weekly reach of the BBC’s television news offer in Scotland”.

Scotland has seen a decline in TV news viewership like the rest of the UK although regional news viewing in Scotland is “generally higher than across the UK as a whole”.

Ofcom’s news consumption survey has showed 69% of Scottish audiences got their news from TV in 2023 and 54% from social media – a shift from 77% and 46% respectively in 2019.

About 14% of audiences in Scotland get their news from the BBC Scotland channel, compared to 43% from BBC One, 40% from ITV1/STV, 40% from Facebook and 25% from iPlayer.

Ofcom said the BBC could still fulfil its mission and “meet audience needs in Scotland given changing viewing habits” even after cutting peak time TV news output.

As well as the evening news programme, the BBC has proposed making several other changes to its Scottish news output including:

  • Trialing a visualised, Scotland-focused current affairs podcast that would air across BBC One Scotland, BBC Scotland Channel, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Sounds and BBC iPlayer. The TV broadcast time would be 11pm
  • Extend Reporting Scotland on BBC One Scotland from 30 minutes to an hour-long programme several times a year for major stories
  • Increase funding for Debate Night on BBC Scotland during the election year
  • Build its capability to deliver “more innovative” online reporting about Scotland on the BBC News website and app.

Ofcom said these were relevant to its consideration of the BBC’s request to change the evening news programme but not dependent on regulatory approval.

The regulator said: “Overall, in light of the changing news consumption habits of audiences in Scotland, with a continual shift to online, we agree that the BBC should be innovating in order to adapt to audience’s expectations and to engage Scotland’s audiences with its news and current affairs output.

“We are mindful that in innovating and experimenting to deliver to audiences in new ways, the BBC may not always be successful. However, we remain of the view that it is important the BBC does this.”

The BBC said its proposals would not require a change to the Scotland news budget or impact staffing levels, due to a reallocation of The Nine’s budget. The plan should be ready to be put in place by September in time for a likely general election in the autumn.

It said there is proven appetite for news podcasting as Newscast overperforms in Scotland relative to its population size, with 11% of Newscast’s TV audience coming from the nation.

Ofcom said it will “pay particular attention” to how the BBC says it will meet the needs of the audience in Scotland for news next year after the election.

“Our evidence suggests that audiences in Scotland value news and current affairs and we would expect the BBC to ensure it continues to meet audience needs postelection,” it said.

Ofcom said its provisional view is to approve the BBC’s plan but it is inviting views as part of a consultation.

Topics in this article : ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network