BBC Scotland claiming it’s producing a record number of UK-wide network hours

THE number of hours of BBC Scotland output being broadcast across its UK-wide network is now a record 882 hours, a rise of over 52 per cent in just two years – says the Corporation.

This morning, BBC Scotland bosses are telling MSPs that, among other things, some nine per cent of the BBC’s network TV spend is taking place in Scotland, “contributing almost £80million of business for the Scottish creative economy”.

Today, The Scotsman newspaper again takes issue with previous non-appearance of BBC Scotland personnel at the Education and Culture Committee at Holyrood, this time by claiming Lord Patten – the chair of the BBC governing body, the BBC Trust – has ‘kicked backsides’ to ensure BBC bosses appear at Holyrood.

The paper also reports a meeting of NUJ members at BBC Scotland is scheduled for Friday, with the possibility of industrial action – against job cuts – on the agenda.

A written statement by BBC Scotland director, Ken MacQuarrie, to MSPs this morning – in particular the committee’s convener, Stewart Maxwell – reads as follows:

“Since we appeared here in May , we have reported on our most successful ever business year – and that’s despite the well-documented challenges we have from the Licence Fee settlement and of course the very serious issues surrounding Jimmy Savile.

“The Deloitte Economic Impact Survey, which some of you may have read last week, revealed that for every £1 of Licence Fee, the BBC delivers over £2 of value back into the economy – equating to around £410million in Scotland for the financial year 2011/12.

“We now produce nine per cent of the BBC’s network TV spend in Scotland, contributing almost £80million of business for the Scottish creative economy. That’s resulted in our network television rising to a record 882 hours – a rise of over 52 per cent in just two years.

“That’s been achieved through programmes like Mrs Brown’s Boys, produced at Pacific Quay, and which has become one of the most popular BBC sitcoms in recent times.

“It’s also helped by the move of Waterloo Road to Greenock which brought a further £20m investment over two years as well as bringing over 200 jobs – over 90 per cent of those Scottish-based and around ten per cent from the Greenock area alone.

“We also launched BBC One Scotland HD just last week; and have collected a significant number of industry awards, including Foreign Press Association and a Scottish BAFTA for Mark Daly (one of seven Scottish BAFTAs we won), three UK Grierson awards and an International Emmy for our Terry Pratchett documentary.

“We’re aware that the committee was previously concerned about changes to our radio news schedules. But all the indications we have so far are that those changes – changes that have increased the amount of news we offer – have been welcomed by our audiences, including changes to our weekend offering which includes a new two-hour Good Morning Scotland.

“I would also like to address the issue of the appearance of BBC Scotland before this committee particularly the suggestion that we were disrespectful to you as that was not our intention. As you know, we provided detailed evidence to this committee in January and again in May of last year, and, in October 2011, to the Scotland Bill Committee, on the impact of the licence fee freeze on BBC Scotland.

“You’re also aware that the freeze has resulted in a budget reduction of £16million over the period to 2017, resulting in a required reduction in post numbers of between 100 and 120 from a workforce of around 1250.

“A number of those posts have already been closed – 39 last year and another 35 by March 2013. In the case of a number of those posts closures, appeals have been lodged and these are currently in train but we envisage no more post closures in news and current affairs under the ‘Delivering Quality First’ process.

“When we wrote to the committee in October we said we felt we had already provided a substantial amount of information – as much as we possibly could at that time – on the impact of the licence fee freeze on BBC Scotland and our response through DQF. We did, however, note that we would be happy to return at a future date to update on developments.

“We also said that it would not be appropriate to enter into discussion on industrial relations matters in a public forum – the on-going appeals process serves further to illustrate the importance of that point.

“In your letter to the chairman of the BBC, convener, you indicated that the committee is now considering a report on the ability of BBC Scotland to manage major events. As the chairman outlined in his response, we are very happy to attend today to answer any questions that the committee may have in this respect. I hope that we can do so in a spirit of co-operation and in the knowledge that we are all endeavouring to produce the best possible output for audiences here in Scotland.

“In conclusion, major events are very much front of mind for us following on from our coverage of the Olympics which received considerable praise. Our firm desire is to use the expertise gained from the Olympics as we prepare for next year.

“2014 is a year in which we will cover not only the Commonwealth Games and the Independence Referendum, but also the World War One commemorations and a host of other events – and our planning for these major events is already well in hand.

“In short, I am confident that we are well placed to manage the challenges that we currently face and those that we will face, going forward. 2012 was one of our most successful years to date and I have no reason to think that we will not continue on that path this year, next year and beyond.”