BBC Chiefs Criticised for 'Lack of Willingness to Engage' with MSPs

The director-general of the BBC has been criticised by the MSP who chaired a committee yesterday which heard evidence from him.

Mark Thompson yesterday appeared at the Education and Culture Comitteee at the Scottish Parliament, along with Ken MacQuarrie, BBC Scotland Director, and Bruce Malcolm, chief operating officer also at the BBC Scotland.

And the committee's convener – Stewart Maxwell MSP – last night told BBC Radio Scotland's Sarah Paterson that he was disappointed by a “lack of transparency”.

He was appearing on Scotland at Ten, which reported as a separate item, at the start of the programme, Thompson's appearance.

Towards the end of the broadcast, Maxwell said: “I thought the director-general and the head of the BBC in Scotland were both rather defensive. What I found most annoying was the lack of willingness to engage with committee questions. Clearly, the BBC receives an enormous amount of public money to carry out its operations and we are happy that it does so. But at the same time there has to be some transparency and accountability and yet they were unwilling to answer very basic questions about the budgets of programmes and why decisions have been taken to cut certain programmes, but not other programmes.”

Today's Scotsman (page 10) reports: “Job cuts at the BBC in Scotland will not damage its ability to cover major stories, such as the referendum on Scottish independence, the head of the Corporation told MSPs yesterday.”

As reported yesterday on, up to 120 posts at BBC Scotland are set to be axed within the next five years, in a push to reduce its budget by 16 per cent, following a freezing of the TV licence fee, agreed with the UK Government, until 2017.

MacQuarrie said that 30 posts are expected to be going specifically in news at BBC Scotland, on the back of 14 already gone. Of the 30, five are in radio news production, from a complement of 27.

Scotland at Ten is available as a Listen Again service on the BBC iPlayer, here.

A video recording of the committee meeting can be viewed here