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Ministers united in BBC Charter review message

Published 04/08/2015

Fiona Hyslop said the BBC is 'failing to meet the expectations' of viewers in Scotland
Fiona Hyslop said the BBC is 'failing to meet the expectations' of viewers in Scotland

Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have joined forces to ensure their administrations are given a formal role in agreeing the new BBC Charter.

With the Corporation's Royal Charter up for review, Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop held talks in Glasgow with her counterparts from Wales and Northern Ireland.

She claimed afterwards the BBC is "failing to meet the expectations" of viewers in Scotland, with "positive reform" needed, not "excuses for cuts".

Ms Hyslop made the comments after meeting Northern Ireland Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin and Welsh Deputy Minister for Culture Ken Skates.

In a joint statement, they said: " It is right and proper that the devolved governments should each have a critical role to play in the charter review process and we welcome the fact that the UK Government has committed to us having clear, agreed and equal roles in developing the new BBC Charter."

The three administrations have agreed they will work together to hold both the UK Government and the BBC to account to ensure the broadcaster's commitment to public service is maintained.

They also want to ensure the service is "truly representative" of all parts of the UK, with more commissioning and production from all the nations and regions.

UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has said the review would look at whether the broadcaster should continue to be ''all things to all people'' or have a more ''precisely targeted'' mission.

The BBC has already indicated it will be responding to the UK Government's Green Paper on broadcasting in due course.

Ms Hyslop said: "T he BBC's recent annual report showed the corporation is currently failing to meet the expectations of the people of Scotland.

"More than half of our population don't believe the BBC properly reflects their lives and we've seen a decline in production spend here. But these BBC failures must fuel positive reform, not furnish excuses for cuts.

"BBC Charter renewal must be used as an opportunity to improve the corporation's services so that it better delivers for Scotland and our people.

"We've made clear the Scottish Government intends to play an active role in the charter renewal process and today's meeting formed part of our firm commitment to ensuring Scotland's voice is heard."

Mr Skates said: " Wales and the other devolved nations must and will have an equal voice in deliberations on the new BBC Royal Charter.

"It is vital the new agreement ensures there is sufficient funding for news and non-news programming in Welsh and English and for S4C.

"It must also fully reflect the interests of the people of Wales and the current and changing devolved settlement.

"People in Wales rely on the BBC for news coverage of public life, but beyond this both Welsh and English language programming in Wales have suffered significant budget cuts in recent years.

"It is vital that we are properly consulted and I am very pleased that as governments we are working together to ensure our interests are protected and promoted in the BBC's next Charter."

Ms Ni Chuilin said: " The BBC must continue to embrace and further develop its commitment to its public obligations and the occasion of the charter renewal must be seen as an opportunity to deliver better for the North of Ireland.

"In moving forward there needs to be greater emphasis placed on home-grown productions and the harnessing of local talent.

"The opportunities for local companies and individuals must be maximised and there must be increased commissioning of original programming showcasing our local communities and what they have to offer.

"There is a clear belief that the shared interests of the devolved administrations must be championed vigorously during the ongoing discussions surrounding the future shape and output of the BBC."

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