Salmond Pledges Support to Scottish Broadcasters While Stoking up Storm Over Football Coverage

First Minister, Alex Salmond, has pledged his government’s support to Scotland’s broadcasting sector.

But reaction to a speech given last night at a Royal Society of Television gathering in Glasgow centred mostly on his displeasure that the Scotland football team’s World Cup home qualifying games will not be shown on terrestrial television.

“It is an extraordinary, and frankly unacceptable position,” he said of what is what is a far from new situation of Scotland’s home games being shown on Sky TV while, by comparison, English ones are on the BBC.

Salmond was giving the RTS Scotland’s Campbell Swinton Lecture.

His displeasure led BBC Scotland’s late-night news and took up much of a whole Newsnight Scotland devoted to the speech.

But while the ‘top line’ was about ‘fitba’, broadcasters will be cheered by what lay beneath.

Minded that the controllers of UK-wide networks, such as BBC and Channel 4, cannot be always guaranteed to provide opportunities for Scottish progamme-makers (though encouraged by recent willingness to do so), Salmond said:

“We cannot always rely on the goodwill of the gatekeepers – the heads of the major networks. Scotland has to create its own possibilities and shape its own destiny in the creative industries – as much as we do in any sphere.

“This means the Scottish Government working with you to provide training and development opportunities for talented people of all ages and backgrounds.

“This means encouraging innovation and risk taking by producers, broadcasters and the support industries.

“This means ensuring that we make the best possible use of new technologies in digital production and distribution to open up global markets.

“And above all, this requires clear commitment and leadership from the public sector. Setting a vision for Scotland’s creative future. And working with you to pursue a strategy that will take us from being broadcasting bystanders to being a truly creative nation.”

He continued: “The Scottish Government has highlighted the creative industries as a priority sector within our overall economic strategy.

“And through Creative Scotland and through Scottish Enterprise – and based on the work of the Broadcasting Commission – my Government will help to make your industry to become a great Scottish success story.”

Here is his full speech:

It is a pleasure to be invited to deliver this year’s lecture to the Royal Television Society Scotland.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak with you about the state of broadcasting in this country, and about the great potential of this very important – and very Scottish – industry.

It’s quite likely that if John Logie Baird had not invented television, the rest of the world would have managed it by now.

They might even have moved from monochrome to colour.

But there is no denying that this country has pushed forward the frontiers of television by several years.

Like I suspect everyone here tonight, I cannot claim to have known Campbell Swinton personally. He died in 1930 – four years before the creation of the Scottish National Party. And many – many – more years before I arrived.

Nonetheless when considering the great potential of our country and our economy, I take inspiration from figures such as Campbell Swinton.

Campbell Swinton was a polymath and a genius – a sort of Scottish Da Vinci. As well as his discoveries in television, he did pioneering work with radiography, the telephone and in electronics.

Campbell Swinton was also (according to the London Times) great-uncle to Oscar winner, Tilda Swinton. And a relation of Sir Ernest Swinton, inventor of the tank.

It was a very Scottish combination of talents – an extraordinary creativity allied with great technical ability – that was the foundation of the success of Campbell Swinton and so many of his generation. John Logie Baird, Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Rennie Mackintosh to name but a few.

And it is this combination of talents and our flexibility of mind – the legacy of our once world-class system of free education – that will be the foundation of Scotland’s future success.

Not only in broadcasting but across our whole economy.

Tonight, we are here to consider the future of Scottish broadcasting. There is much to say on this subject. And much more to do.

All of you will be aware of the keen interest that my Government has taken is Scottish broadcasting.

And I hope that no one here doubts the strength of our desire to see Scotland succeed. Or our determination to help you do so.

The Scottish Government is committed to your success.

Let us be honest about where we stand today. Scottish broadcasting faces a real challenge.

Last year, [broadcasting regulators] Ofcom reported that Scotland’s share of total UK network production fell from six per cent in 2004 to three per cent in 2006.

And over the same period, [the Producers’ Alliance for Cinema and Television] PACT reported that independent network productions in Scotland fell from 180 hours to a little over 100 hours.

On coming to office the new Government was angered by these figures. But not surprised. That is why in August we set up the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, under the chairmanship of Blair Jenkins.

To examine the state of the industry. To understand the causes of the recent difficulties. To look into new opportunities. And to build a consensus – a partnership – to a successful future.

And our aim should not be simply to return Scottish broadcasting to its standing of four or five years ago. That would still be punching below our weight.

Our vision – and our ambition – is nothing less than the long-term revival in Scottish broadcasting – and its emergence as a strong and growing industry. A global leader, enriching Scotland’s economy and our culture.

Tonight, I want to discuss with you the steps that we can take together to build success in Scottish broadcasting.

And let me say now: our discussions this evening will be far from the last word.

The Broadcasting Commission still has much valuable work to do before its final report this summer.

The major networks are still reflecting on how they will ensure a level playing field for television production across Britain – bringing new opportunities for all of you.

And together we have to discuss and shape a strategy for the future of Scottish broadcasting. A strategy that will make full use of the tremendous talent and creativity in this country – and put your industry up there with the very best.

So first let me first discuss the work of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission.

I want to start by thanking and congratulating the ten members of the Commission for the way they have gone about their work since October.