Scottish Sunday Express Keeps up Pressure on its Cash-for-Programming Claims Despite Ofcom Inquiry Result

The newspaper behind a series of allegations that the Scottish Government had influenced the content of STV’s programming has not let up in its campaign, despite an inquiry last week ruling only minor editorial transgressions had taken place.

The Scottish Sunday Express yesterday reported two MSPs calling for inquiries into Scottish Government sponsorship of various STV programmes – including around last year's tourism initiative, Homecoming Scotland. 

This is despite broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, last week ruling that STV's editorial integrity had not been compromised by the sponsorship while adding that the broadcaster would require to attend a meeting with Ofcom about TV sponsorship because some minute-long, public information-style programmes had broken sponsorship guidelines.

The paper, at the start of the year, alleged too cosy a relationship between the SNP-led government and STV, amid criticisms of STV programming policy that had seen some network shows – such as Doc Martin – replaced by more local content.

Splashed the paper yesterday: “Ministers could be hauled before Holyrood after a damning report ruled STV’s editorial independence had been ‘impaired’ by its relationship with the Scottish Government.

“Two powerful committees have been asked to probe liaisons between Alex Salmond, his senior Cabinet colleagues and the channel over ‘favourable’ content funded by taxpayers.”

Last week, the Scottish broadcaster was broadly cleared by Ofcom of claims its editorial independence had been influenced by Scottish Government sponsorship of Homecoming-related programmes aired last year.

Now, two Scottish Parliament committees have been asked to scrutinise links between Alex Salmond’s administration and the broadcaster, the Scottish Sunday Express reports.

States a letter sent to the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee convenor by Conservative MSP, Elizabeth Smith, and quoted in yesterday’s paper: “You will, I know, be very conscious of the concerns which have been raised regarding the alleged editorial links between the Scottish Government and STV and the fact that Ofcom found more than 40 breaches of the rules within 18 of the 57 programmes investigated.

“While Ofcom has obviously undertaken an extensive review of this matter, there remains, in my view, an issue about political representation within the media and the accountability of the Scottish Government when it comes to ensuring a balanced and transparent approach to the screening of television programmes.

“It is in this respect that I ask you…to allow us…the opportunity to question the Minister for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP.”

Adds the newspaper, Labour MSP, George Foulkes, believes the issue should be brought before the Standards Committee as well.

In addition, the paper also claims an investigation into STV’s output this year could be on the cards.

Reads the article: “And while Ofcom only examined shows from 2008 and 2009, there have been calls for the watchdog to now look at government-sponsored programmes screened so far in 2010.

“These include ’info-mercials’ for government education quangos Smarter Scotland and Enquire, as well as sponsored segments within STV’s teatime show, The Hour.”