Ministerial Statement on Scottish Digital Network to be Made Tomorrow

A progress report on plans to set up a digital TV channel dedicated to Scottish content is to be delivered by the Scottish Government's Culture minister tomorrow.

Fiona Hyslop is speaking tomorrow afternoon, at 2.30pm, in the Scottish Parliament chamber, about the Scottish Digital Network – a TV channel backed by a big online presence and the main recommendation two years ago of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission set up by First Minister, Alex Salmond.

She said today the plan for a Scottish Digital Network has been emboldened by announcements by her Westminster counterpart, Jeremy Hunt.

At a speech given to the Royal Television Society, Hunt also today outlined a vision for the development of local television, including some stations broadcasting for no more than an hour per day. To make it easier, he reiterated a promise to remove regulations preventing cross-media ownership, say a newspaper owning a local TV provider.

The Scottish Broadcasting Commission was chaired by former BBC Scotland head of news and current affairs, Blair Jenkins. Earlier this month, he was tasked to lead a 'panel of experts' to explore how the Scottish Digital Network might be funded.

In a parallel initiative, the Coalition Government at Westminster has tasked Nicholas Shott – Head of UK Investment Banking at Lazard – to explore the commercial viability of local television.

Said Hyslop: “It is two years since Blair Jenkins and the Scottish Broadcasting Commission presented their blueprint for a revolution in Scottish broadcasting. We remain committed to implementing their recommendations in full and are heartened to see more good progress made over the past 12 months. 

“It is clear that the major networks are waking up to the reality of the need to better reflect society in Scotland in their output, and there have been increases in the percentage of content commissioned from Scotland.

“I am sure it is no coincidence that levels of audience satisfaction have shown modest increases since the Scottish Broadcasting Commission published its report.

“This is welcome progress, but it is vital that the networks stay focused on the Commission's production targets and look to meet them sooner rather than later.”

She continued: “Research shows that there remains strong public support for a Scottish Digital Network – the Scottish Broadcasting Commission's flagship recommendation. The time is right to make the case for the network, particularly given the review being led by Nicholas Shott.

“With Jeremy Hunt criticising the 'over-centralisation' of broadcasting, and broadcasters and the public sector in Scotland continuing to work closely together for the benefit of audiences and the industry, the case for transferring more responsibility for broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament strengthens.

“In the meantime, there seems to be consensus on the need for de-centralisation of broadcasting. The UK Government is exploring the possibility of new local television services across the UK, while the Scottish Parliament has unanimously backed a digital network which, in the words of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, 'could certainly accommodate opportunities for more localised broadcasting'.

“These two positions present a genuine desire for more relevant broadcasting for local audiences. I have made it clear to the UK Government that I want the work of the Scottish Digital Network [expert] panel and the Shott Review to complement each other and I am optimistic that dramatic developments for broadcasting in this country could be closer as a result.”