Belfast Telegraph

Nicola Sturgeon raises concerns over BBC Scotland budget

The First Minister has praised other developments in the Scottish media world.

Concerns about the amount of money available to the new BBC Scotland channel have been raised by Nicola Sturgeon.

The First Minister suggested during a keynote speech that the proposed new channel would need more than a £30 million annual budget.

And she questioned the decision to broadcast in standard definition, rather than high definition.

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Nicola Sturgeon (Andrew Milligan/PA)

In February, the BBC announced it will create a new Scottish channel as part of plans which would see the “biggest single investment” in the corporation north of the border for more than 20 years.

It is due to begin broadcasting from autumn 2018.

Addressing an event at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, the SNP leader said: “The new proposed BBC channel (has) a budget of £30 million and I think there are already really legitimate questions about whether that will be sufficient.

“If we think back to the broadcasting commission a decade ago, at that time it proposed an annual budget of £75 million for a new network in Scotland.

“The fact that the new channel will only be broadcast on standard definition could also limit its appeal. For drama in particular these days, viewers increasingly expect high definition to be available.

“So at the very least, I think these are issues that must be kept under review.”

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Ms Sturgeon said that Scottish broadcasting is being “short-changed”.

“At present, approximately 72% of the licence fee raised in Scotland will be spent in Scotland,” she said.

“In Wales and Northern Ireland, it’s 98%, so even with the BBC’s new commitments we won’t have parity with these countries.”

Ms Sturgeon did, however, say that she “warmly welcomed” the corporation’s plans for a Scottish channel.

And she praised the broadcaster for improving choice for viewers in Scotland and boosting the production sector.

She described the launch of BBC Alba in 2008 as a “huge success” in terms of viewing figures and welcomed growth in Scotland’s share of UK network commissions.

Praising other developments in the Scottish media world, she added: “We’re also seeing other positive developments in the last year.

“STV has joined its local television stations to create a second channel, STV 2, which includes the integrated news bulletin at 7 o’clock, proving that it is possible to have an integrated news bulletin in Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon also said the idea of broadcaster Channel 4 relocating away from London “has some merit”.

“The Scottish Government has certainly made it clear that if Channel 4 does move out of London, Glasgow would be an ideal base,” she said.

In response to Ms Sturgeon’s comments, a BBC Scotland spokesman said: “Earlier this year we unveiled plans to make the biggest single investment in broadcast content in Scotland in over 20 years.

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Nicola Sturgeon

“These include the proposal for the new channel and investment in other digital developments.

“We are also putting another £1.2 million into BBC Alba and are currently making major investments in Scottish programming across the BBC’s network TV output, with a particular focus on the commissioning of drama and factual programmes.

“Compared to 2015/16, this means we will be spending around £20m extra, per year, over the three years to March 2019.

“This will support the delivery of our network production targets and put a greater emphasis on portraying the nation.

“Our proposals have been fully costed and we’re very confident that they will enable us to produce a channel which has a mix of high quality programming that will appeal to a wide range of viewers.”

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