In response to your publicised request for comment, the following is restricted to three salient points.
1. UK Coverage
Despite the close run in the Scottish Independence Referendum, the response of the BBC is largely to assume the issue has been put to bed and may be ignored. This would be a mistake and would repeat the failure manifest in last year’s referendum coverage when metropolitan ignorance rode supreme. Many years ago, a Director General acknowledged in a letter to me in my then capacity as National Secretary of the SNP that there was a problem over news when the sifting was done by London based News Editors.
The BBC requires to recognise that the nations of the UK exist and reflect their status in news coverage, expenditure and productions. It remains to be seen where the new News Editor Scotland will make a difference in defeating invincible metropolitan bias. The position should be under constant monitoring.
2. A Scottish Six
Supplementary to the above has been the inability of the Six O’clock Scottish News to rise above a tedious parochial diet of murder, rape and assault (much of it of regional interest only). Scotland as a nation has a distinctive outlook on international affairs which cannot find a place in the UK news and current affairs coverage from London. This should be rectified by allowing BBC Scotland to draw independently on the foreign correspondent network to give a more balanced output.
In particular, BBC Scotland echoes UK insularity on European coverage. The post of senior European correspondent (axed years’ ago) should restored. With an impending European referendum, this is an urgent requirement.
3. BBC Alba
This station gives valuable support to the Gaelic language and should be congratulated on its enterprise through football and rugby coverage in attracting a larger non-Gaelic speaking audience.
But the resources deployed expose a cultural flaw. Gaelic is an important part of Scottish culture. Yet Scotland has another tradition in the Scots language still spoken in different forms throughout Scotland and used widely amongst the ordinary folk of Scotland. It dwarves that of Gaelic. Scots has been instrumental in enriching Scottish culture in poetry, prose and plays but does not enjoy the support it should from a national broadcaster.
At the popular level, take the example of song. Songs in Scots feature little on both BBC Alba and the Transatlantic Sessions where they are swamped by Irish and Country and Western contributions, never mind those in Gaelic! This lack of interest is shown in the failure of BBC Scotland to mount a major retrospective of the genius of Jean Redpath following her recent death. This is a scandalous omission.
Without going to extremes in these days of financial stringency, the mission of BBC Alba should be expanded to care for the Scots language. Scotland has a wealth of song from all regions from composed songs and ballads to modern folk. These could easily be dovetailed into current musical programmes or scheduled separately to no detriment to Gaelic as BBC Alba is stuffed with repeats!
23 November 2015