The BBC is to create 80 new posts for journalists with the launch of a new TV channel in Scotland that has an international news hour “at its heart”, the corporation announced today.
The channel will be called BBC Scotland and begin broadcasting in autumn 2018.
It will have a budget of about £30m (equivalent to that of BBC4) – including a £19m yearly investment and existing £10m funding – and represents the biggest BBC investment in Scotland in more than 20 years.
Programming will run from 7pm to midnight every evening with an “integrated” hour-long news programme, edited and presented from Scotland, at 9pm on weekdays and for 15 minutes at 7pm on weekends.
Traditional news bulletins at 6pm and 10pm on BBC One in Scotland will remain unchanged, despite calls for a “Scottish Six” that would integrate the 6pm news from London with Reporting Scotland – the BBC’s flagship news programme for the nation broadcast three times a day midweek.
BBC director-general Tony Hall said: “The BBC is Britain’s broadcaster but we also need to do more for each nation just as we are doing more for Britain globally.
“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. It is vital that we get this right.
“The best way of achieving that 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.
“The BBC has the luxury of having first-class creative teams and brilliant journalists, who I know will make this new channel a huge success.”
He added: “All of this combined amounts to the biggest single investment by the BBC in broadcast content in Scotland in over twenty years.
“This will be a huge boost for BBC Scotland and for the Scottish creative industries. This is an exciting time for BBC Scotland and for the millions of Scots who love TV.”
The proposals will be subject to approval by the BBC’s new unitary board and, as necessary, by Ofcom.
They come a day after the corporation announced it was investing an additional £8.5m in annual funding in programming for Wales with plans for Northern Ireland to be revealed in the coming weeks.
A BBC spokesperson said the corporation’s aim for the new hour-long news bulletin at 9pm was to “provide comprehensive reporting and analysis of the news at the end of the day from a Scottish perspective”.
They said: “It will draw on the best news content from network news and Reporting Scotland, reworking where necessary, and include substantial original journalism from an expanded BBC Scotland specialist team.
“There will be scope for live interviews with the best of the BBC’s Newsgathering correspondents around the world and BBC Scotland reporters and correspondents; and live interviews with the day’s news-makers.”
The BBC said the 9pm timeslot will allow it to “attract the largest available audience” and meant it would not compete with any other terrestrial news programmes, while offering audiences “an alternative to high-end drama and entertainment scheduled at this time on other channels”.
The corporation said it believed there was “no significant Scotland vs. UK gap in appreciation for the Six O’Clock News” as reason for not creating a “Scottish Six” programme, adding the 6pm bulletin had “performed strongly in Scotland in recent years” and had moved ahead of rival STV News at Six.
A spokesperson said: “Our proposals will offer choice and quality: the new programme will not compete for resources with either The Six or Reporting Scotland, and the new investment will make it possible to deliver a step change in the quality of Reporting Scotland on BBC One Scotland and make other news and sport services better as a result of the availability of additional content.”
They added that bilingual reporters and “production talent” would extend the benefits to Gaelic news.
According to the National Union of Journalists, another 20 editorial posts have been created by the BBC as part of the Local News initiative with Scottish newspapers.
It comes as STV, ITV’s Scottish arm, are expanding their news coverage and creating about 20 new posts with the development of a Scottish Seven O Clock news, starting in March this year.
Paul Holleran, NUJ Scottish organiser, said: “It is great news, but we see this as the first step towards growing the investment in BBC Scotland and a move towards increasing the amount of spend north of the border in line with the money raised here through the licence fee.”
The union said it has met with both managements and are “engaged in discussing the staffing issues like recruitment and appointments and structure of the new newsrooms”.
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