Times’ leader column fears for Good Morning Scotland

A LEADER column in The Times newspaper fears for BBC Radio Scotland’s news flagship, Good Morning Scotland, which is reported to be attracting fewer listeners in Scotland than the UK-wide news programme on BBC Radio 4: Today.

Says the newspaper today: “Even the best of [BBC Radio Scotland’s] current affairs programmes relies heavily on listeners’ phone-ins, traffic news and text messages, always an indication of a station that has retreated from the serious content of ideas, debate and intellectual discourse.

“There are those within the industry who claim that the problem facing BBC Scotland is a decline in funding – that if it was properly financed it could afford to be more ambitious, to invest in its cultural content as well as in its popular programmes. There is little evidence, however, that this is the direction the station wishes to go.”

In an accompanying piece, Melanie Reid says GMS is attracting half what it used to ten years ago, amid concerns it lacks ‘direction and gravitas’.

She quotes Lord Foulkes, the Labour MSP: “I listen to both GMS and the Today programme because of my work and the comparison is just unbelieveable. Today is authoritative, has great gravitas, it’s interesting and agenda-setting, while GMS has an awful silliness and parochialism. I’m just so fed up with the giggling that goes on. BBC Radio Scotland will say, with some justification, that they don’t have the money, but it’s by no means the main reason. It’s this awful parochialism, this dumbing down that infuses BBC Scotland.”

Yesterday, allmediascotland.com reported that BBC Radio Scotland – according to listener audit body, RAJAR – had seen its reach (measured by the number of people aged over 15 tuning in for at least five minutes per week) fall from 938,000 to 822,000 between the second quarter of this year and the third, a drop of 12.4 per cent.

Adds the leader: “On Radio 4, by contrast, there has been a determined drive to invest in serious discussion programmes, drama and documentaries.

“This includes a considerable amount of work from Scottish writers and producers. The net result, judging from figures issued yesterday, is that audience figures have risen to record levels. It even appears that there are more listeners for the Today programme in Scotland than for Radio Scotland’s equivalent, Good Morning Scotland.”

It concludes: “Scots, like listeners throughout the UK, want intelligent programmes. They are interested in informed discussion, they want to have their own culture properly reflected on their national radio station. Radio Scotland has a duty to the whole of the nation — not just a narrow segment of it. What is now apparent is that this segment is beginning to diminish. Radio Scotland has got its priorities wrong. It must begin to reassess them.”