Broadcasting should not be devolved, says Calman

BROADCASTING in Scotland should not be devolved from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament – according to a review of Scottish devolution, ten years on.

The Calman Commission has deferred to the recommendations made last year by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission (SBC), set up the year before by First Minister, Alex Salmond.

But it does suggest that the Scotland representative on the BBC Trust – set up to replace the BBC board of governors two years ago, with the explicit brief to protect the interests of the BBC Licence Fee payers – should be made by Scottish govenment ministers, rather than Westminster, as is currently the case. The present Scotland rep. is Jeremy Peat.

Says Calman: “[Our] Commission notes the work of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission and does not feel it necessary to comment further on broadcasting in Scotland.”

And the SBC has said broadcasting should not be devolved.

Led by Professor Sir Kenneth Calman – Chancellor of the University of Glasgow – the Calman Commission was set up two years ago.

Calman also notes that broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, have “effective links” with Scottish Government and Parliament and that the BBC’s Director-General “has undertaken to appear before Scottish Parliamentary committees if invited to do so and the Corporation lays its annual report (and a separate Scottish annual report) before the Scottish Parliament”.

Regarding concerns raised a couple of years ago that Scottish news/perspective and Scotland-made programmes represented a tiny fraction of the BBC’s network output, Calman recognises the situation has since improved.

Says Blair Jenkins, who chaired the SBC: “I’m delighted that the Calman Commission has backed our recommendations on strengthening the role of the Scottish Parliament and ministers in relation to broadcasting and its accountability to audiences in Scotland. This follows the unanimous support we received from all parties in the Scottish Parliament last year and should help to drive through the changes that are needed.”

But Dave Rushton, director, Institute of Local Television is not so welcoming. He said: “In its interim report in December, Calman published a summary of broadcasting submissions, most of which supported some measure of devolution for broadcasting in Scotland.

“In December, the Commission noted: ‘There appears to be a plausible case for further consideration as to the most effective way to exercise a particular function – here we include broadcasting.’

“The final report’s unwillingness to devolve broadcasting and entertain a more locally accountable regulation appears to be based on the later oral evidence of the established central UK regulators – the BBC and Ofcom – and flies in the face of the detailed evidence presented in writing up to and following the interim report.”