Ten questions for… Atholl Duncan, head of news and current affairs, BBC Scotland

AS part of the recently-launched allmediascotland.com series, Ten questions for… BBC Scotland’s head of news and current affairs, Atholl Duncan, answers your questions.

1. How can BBC Scotland justify sending reporters to America to cover the election of Barack Obama? Matt Bendoris, chief features writer, The Scottish Sun.

Your question sums up the classic ‘no win’ situation that we find ourselves in. Some criticise us for being too parochial. Others criticise us for being international.

Our audience research tells us BBC Radio Scotland listeners expect us to be outward looking.

They want to know about local, Scottish, UK and international stories. When we get such a mega story as this recent US presidential election, we’ve got to cover it well on Radio Scotland.

We decided the best way to do that was to send Gary Robertson to co-present Good Morning Scotland live from Washington for three hours on the Monday and Tuesday of the election week.

The coverage was excellent and the response from the audience overwhelmingly positive. We can’t rely on colleagues from Radio Five Live or Radio 4 to co-present our programmes as we they will be appearing on their own shows at precisely the time we need them.

We will continue to cover big global stories but we will make our choices carefully as to when we need to send our own reporters and when we can use other BBC reporters. Don’t knock us for being ambitious and outward looking.

2. Why is there a disconnection between Reporting Scotland and BBC national news?

If a major Scottish story is featured on the national news, it is often the lead on Reporting Scotland a few minutes later, but what I find puzzling, as a viewer, is that the Rep Scotland news reader tends to present it as fresh news and makes no reference to the fact that it was just reported on the national programme.

Is this disjointed programming or do your viewing figures show there is a major switch on of Scottish viewers at 6.30pm who have seen the national news programme? Bill Shaw, The BIG Partnership.

There is a big switch on at 6.30pm. But I can understand the irritation of seeing the same story twice in a relatively short period of time. On the other hand, if we drop a big Scottish story from the six c’clock news because it is on Rep Scot then we get complaints.

If we were to drop a big Scottish story from Rep Scot because it was on the Six there would also be an outcry. More often, we need to ensure that the treatments are slightly different on the two programmes. This helps to reduce the irritation factor.

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