Newspaper history to be screened on BBC

THE history of the Scottish newspaper industry is the subject of a six-part documentary series, starting a week on Tuesday. Yesterday,

‘Deadline: The Story of the Scottish Press’, was given a preview screening to the media, ahead of its transmission on BBC Scotland on the 24th of this month.

The six, half-hour programmes chart the history of Scotland’s newspaper industry from the 1960s onwards.

Broadcast on BBC One Scotland, at 10.35pm, episode one is titled, ‘War of Words’, and considers “the rivalry that often drives the presses, particularly the tabloid presses”.

That rivalry, it is claimed by the makers, “kicked off in the 60s with the Scottish Daily Express as leader of the pack. Since then the players may have changed but the game remains the same”.

Episode two, ‘The Games People Play’, looks at the reporting of Scotland’s performance during the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina. Here, say the programme makers, the rules of engagement changed, irrevocably. It wasn’t just sports writers reporting the disappointing Scottish performances, but news ones, and by a much tougher agenda.

‘Acts of Union’, episode three, considers the days of hot metal. Says the preview billing: “It was a laborious process, noisy, smelly, inky and thoroughly exciting but it was hugely expensive and new, cheaper technology was waiting in the wings. The transition was one of the most painful and notorious periods in the history of the press, compounded by the management techniques of the bosses and the intransigency of unions alike.”

‘The Dog and The Lamp Post’, episode four, looks at “newspapers’ love-in and love-out with politicians”, while episode five, ‘The Good Old/Bad Old Days’, looks back to the newspaper office before the advent of such things as mobile telephones.

The billing for the final episode, ‘Circulation’, being broadcast on the 21st of next month, reads: “Newspaper editors describe circulation as a dark art. It is how a paper is judged by its owner and by its peers and – although simple in theory – is easily manipulated. The future of the papers lies in the circulation and the game is on to halt or at least delay the relentless decline of this most competitive of professions.”

A book to accompany the series, also titled ‘Deadline: The Story of the Scottish Press’, and written by former Herald editor, Harry Reid, is being published next Tuesday, by Saint Andrew Press.