BBC News ‘Must Do Better’, Reporting UK-wide

As reported widely elsewhere, the BBC has said its news and current affairs coverage ‘must do better’ to recognise the impact of devolution, which means, for instance, health and education stories applicable in one part of the UK may not be in another.

Commissioned by the BBC and carried out by Anthony King, professor of government at Essex University, the report will give renewed hope to those demanding a ‘Scottish Six’ – ie a six o’clock news programme on the BBC, reporting international, UK and local news via a Scottish perspective.

Last year, for instance, Panorama did not cover any devolved issues or policies in any of its 50 programmes.

Meanwhile, 45 per cent of Scottish viewers said that BBC reporting was not relevant to where they lived.

Says the BBC: “We recognise that the BBC must remain in step with the changing face of the UK, and that our UK-wide journalism must deliver a range of perspectives and richness of coverage that reflects the diversity of the nations and regions of the UK.

“While there have been improvements in performance, and the report states that BBC News upholds high standards of impartiality and fairness in its reporting of politics and policy in all four nations of the UK, we accept that we can and must do better.

“While the report does find that the BBC’s reporting of the UK is seen as consistently superior to that of other broadcast outlets, we recognise the need to raise our game further.”

The SNP MP, Peter Wishart, gave evidence to the report’s compilers. He said, as the SNP’s broadcasting spokesperson: “This report confirms what Scottish people already know, and that is that we are poorly served by BBC network news.

“BBC network news and current affairs services are increasingly irrelevant and at times misleading. This is not good enough, and people in Scotland should be insisting on equality of provision across the whole range of our news services.

“The BBC are failing to keep pace with Scotland’s evolving political and cultural life and are failing to properly reflect the everyday experience of ordinary Scots. Professor King’s report finds a lack of Scottish stories leaving a skewed perspective of events in Scotland and this now has to be addressed.

“Securing our news through a London metropolitan prism is simply not working for Scotland. We need to look at the whole issue of national, UK and international news being delivered through a Scottish produced six o’clock and ten o’clock news service.”

Last year, First Minister, Alex Salmond, launched a commission to look into the future of Scottish broadcasting. Its recommendations are expected in September.

Said its chair, Blair Jenkins: “We welcome the attention the BBC is paying to the complex and vital matter of how to provide accurate and relevant news to people across the four nations of the UK.

“Ten years on, in the age of devolution, it is only right that broadcasters consider how viewers and listeners throughout the UK are served and informed by news and current affairs items and programmes.