Scots still being excluded from some BBC services, audience body warns

MANY Scots, including some living along the A9 from Perth to Inverness, are unable to tune into BBC Radio Scotland, plus receive other supposedly universal services provided by the Corporation – an advisory body has reminded the BBC’s governing body.

In its annual report released today, the BBC Audience Council for Scotland has raised concerns over “continuing audience dissatisfaction” as a result of limited accessibility to some of the broadcaster’s services.

Reporting to the BBC Trust, the Council says: “Many licence fee payers throughout the UK can only access some of the BBC offering, or access it imperfectly, because the core public services are not accessible on all platforms.”

Problems over the universality of access revolve around radio reception and online provision in particular, the report adds.

“In Scotland there are significant shortfalls in universal reception of network radio, including the provision of BBC Radio Scotland along the full length of the A9 [road], and of DAB in a number of areas especially in the north and west.

“In parts of the UK where there is poor or no access to broadband, audiences are deprived of content which is only available online,” it says.

The Council, one of four set up to provide an independent assessment of the Corporation’s progress in serving licence fee payers in each of the UK nations, proposes a plan – aimed at achieving universal access across Scotland – be produced, in addition to developing an “overall strategic approach” for the future.

As reported yesterday on allmediascotland, Scotland’s share of the BBC’s network television production has risen to just over six per cent.

The increase, welcomed by the Council in today’s report, follows the deliberate transfer of well-known programmes, including The Review Show and The Weakest Link, north of the border.

Cautions the report, however: “The Council remains concerned that while the amount of BBC television made in Scotland increases, the proportion of it which is recognizably Scottish should do so also.

“Members hope that increased representation of Scotland will be achieved in the years ahead.”

On the TV front, the Council also suggests composing a “robust long-term strategy” for television drama aimed at audiences in Scotland, in an effort to “increase production, stimulate creativity, and broaden the range of drama portraying Scotland to audiences there”.

Says Council chair and BBC Trustee for Scotland, Jeremy Peat: “There has been significant progress on a range of issues raised with the Trust, from network commissioning to overall news provision for audiences in Scotland and radio reception on the A9.”

The BBC had “worked hard to deliver the Public Purposes on all media”, he adds.