Alex Salmond Wages War on BBC


August 27, 2012 by Nash Riggins

Alex Salmond has called for plans to replace BBC Scotland with a new public service broadcaster should his independence referendum prove successful in 2014.

Claiming that Scottish viewers have been “short-changed” for the last 50 years via exposure to media policies that are decided upon in London, Salmond roughly outlined plans on Friday to establish a 100% Scottish public service broadcaster that would be reshaped based upon the current assets and staff of BBC Scotland – which, according to the First Minister, “does not meet the needs of Scotland.”

What are the needs of Scottish viewers? In a tone that embodied the quintessential bored pensioner writing angry letters, Mr Salmond was predictably unable to elaborate beyond expressing the poorly researched notion that Scottish viewers want more Scottish programming. What, then, would become of BBC favourites such as Top Gear and East Enders?

Similar to Salmond’s ‘we can stay on the pound without being a part of its government’ argument, the First Minister appears confident that even after dismantling BBC Scotland, these shows would still be readily accessible to Scottish viewers via his new network. Yet if the First Minister remains this unconfident with regards to whether or not he can fill a 24 hour timeslot with 100% Scottish programming, why not make a revolutionary compromise: given that Salmond would like to have his cake and eat it too, would it not make more sense in order to tickle his Scottish broadcasting dream by leaving the BBC as is whilst establishing a completely different network for a completely different channel?

No doubt Margaret Curran, the shadow secretary of state for Scotland would have liked to suggest this notion to the fanciful First Minister before he decided to share his new plans with the world.

“Today Alex Salmond told us that he’s going to break up the BBC with no details about how he would do it or what it means for Scottish viewers or the people whose jobs rely on our TV industry,” she scolded.

Indeed, what makes Alex Salmond so recklessly confident that all of the hard-working staff at BBC Scotland would be gung-ho to jump ship in order to work for Salmond TV? Perhaps Mr Salmond has a limited understanding of the way in which the BBC Trust is organised and run, but the overall strategic direction of the BBC and its priorities are overseen by a government-mandated executive board that must bow to every whim of the public. In theory, if every Scottish viewer wrote an angry letter to their MP demanding that BBC Scotland be abolished post-haste, the Trust would have to comply – yet if such a wide scale grassroots movement didn’t happen after witnessing Danny Boyle’s Opening Ceremony, who’s to say it ever will?

Given this blatant inaction by the Scottish people, the only logical conclusion is that BBC Scotland is doing a brilliant job at present – not that everyone in Scotland feels ‘short-changed.’ Yet in order to elaborate further upon his misguided presumption, Mr Salmond even went so far as to assert that because “television was invented by John Logie Baird and the very concept of public service broadcasting was shaped by Lord Reith,” Scotland deserved a much more prominent place amongst the international entertainment industry.

Such achievements are indeed worth commemorating, but unbeknownst to Scotland’s First Minister, do not reserve said creator’s nation an eternal pat on the back – after all, democracy was invented in Greece, but do they now harbour the most successful democracy in the world? The Scottish film and television industry has made several leaps and bounds throughout the past 20 years that most small nations would salivate over; however, the best of the best are inevitably bound to migrate to the world’s entertainment capitals regardless of their home country’s ever-improving infrastructure.

In essence, Alex Salmond could – and should – encourage the BBC to reserve more time for Scottish programming, because said inclusion will foster a new interest in media that will breed fresh domestic talent; however, this half-baked notion regarding the dismantling of a Scottish institution has got to go. Yet as fate would have it – and unfortunately for sanity’s sake – the First Minister has less-than-subtly mentioned that his war on BBC Scotland is to be amidst the forefront of his priorities in the run up to his 2014 referendum – leaving the rest of us to dread what other brilliant ideas are on tap for an independent Scotland.


11 thoughts on “Alex Salmond Wages War on BBC

  1. chris byiers says:

    This would be an interesting piece if it was not simply a poorly disguised attack on the First Minister. There seems little doubt that the BBC has an agenda over the next several years at least. To not understand this is to not understand the relationship 10 Downing Street has with this very British of institutions. The notion that BBC is untouchable is about as antiquated as the BBC’s license fee. To think that the BBC could continue in its current formate post independence is naive to say the least. This is nothing more than a mischief making piece. Remember as much as the Brit Nats will tell you otherwise this is NOT about Salmond or SNP its much bigger than that, its about the betterment of the nation or settling for more of the same. I am interested it others opinions though.

    • Gregg McPhearson says:

      I don’t think that the author was attempting to hide his disdain for Alex Salmond at all. Furthermore, it doesn’t sound like he’s necessarily against independence – just against dismantling the BBC for no reason without a proper plan to do so. Enlighten us: what would you change about the BBC at present (other than the fact that it isn’t free)?

      • chris byiers says:

        Well since you asked, Scotland contributes an annual total of approximately £230 million in licence fees to the BBC. Yet BBC Scotland has an annual budget of £120 million, an amount which is being cut. Scotland has 8.6% of the UK population but only receives 3.7 % of the BBC’s programme making expenditure. (See here.) In addition, the BBC makes money from selling programmes to other broadcasters.

        After independence Scotland would get its own national TV network. Assuming the licence fee system remained in place, the Scottish Broadcasting Corporation would have double the budget currently received by BBC Scotland. Scotland would also be in a position to sell its programming to other broadcasters and retain the revenues. This would allow the ‘SBC’ to buy in all those BBC programmes we actually like. Dr Who and David Attenborough being cuddled by gorillas would be safe for the nation.

        But if you really can’t live without Nicholas Witchell on the 6 O’Clock news gushing on about how maaarvellous Charles and Camilla are, just do what they do in the Republic of Ireland. Those within range simply get an additional antenna and point it at the nearest UK transmitter to receive the full Freeview package. Those outside that range get a satellite dish. Sky viewers in Ireland get the full BBC output. If you prefer not to give any money to Rupert Murdoch, and who could blame you for that, with a generic satellite decoder you can pick up all the free to air broadcasts, including all the main UK channels. You’d also be able to watch Downtown bleedin Abbey even when STV shows something else. And you’d not have to pay a licence fee to the BBC for the privilege either. Of course people would laugh and point fingers at you for wanting to watch Nicholas Witchell, but that happens now anyway.

    • jamie m. says:

      aye it’s mischief making, but its alex salmond that’s making the mischief. by coming out with stupid shite like this he only shoots himself and the idea of independece itself in the foot. i would have voted yes if there had been a first minister in charge that would’ve put a wee bit of thought into his plans beyond generic statements that he’s hoping will solidify himself as the 21st century william wallace (+/- 30 stone). this IS about alex salmond and his snp and no one else, which is why i don’t know one single person who’s planning on voting in the referendum at all. there’s more important things to be dealing with than dismantling bbc scotland, and as long as money is coming out my pay for taxes i say we look at those first.

      • chris byiers says:

        Once again when all else fails a Brit Nat will narrow the debate and make it about their personal dislike for the SNP or Alex Salmond.This is about something much more significant but until a positive case can be made for the Union, that maps out a progressive future for the nation we should be unsurprised. I am not a Nat nor a Salmondite but a Scot who wants a better future.

  2. Christie McCulloch says:

    If Scotland can legalise gay marriage and have its own tax codes without going through the beaurocratic nightmare of raising taxes to pay for creating a new NHS, dismantling the BBC (which will be thrown into the chaotic realm of diplomacy rather than corporate restructuring), trying to stay on the pound without being a part of the country who actually owns that currency, getting hazed by Angela Merkel as a new member of the EU (which is a sinking ship), little inconveniences such as getting new passports for every citizen etc, trying to negotiate all of the North Sea Oil contracts away from French and English conglomerates, restructuring trading tariffs and a new postal service, so on, so on, etc, etc. It’s a headache that we don’t need to give ourselves.

    Everyone in my village is perfectly happy with the way things are. No one feels like their liberty is being trespassed upon by anyone in London, because they hardly have a say in our daily lives anyway – and what little say they do have we never notice. I love BBC Scotland and wouldn’t mind 1 or 2 new Scottish programmes, but overall I don’t see how the First Minister could improve upon the BBC at all. I hope no one takes him seriously when he says things like this, because at the end of the day it’s just another one of his silly ideas.

    • chris byiers says:

      While I am delighted that everybody in your village is doing well and do not feel like their “liberty is being trespassed on” I am afraid the argument and necessity for independence has moved past the shortbread tin version of the debate Brit Nats seemed obsessed with Moreover Scotland has a more Egalitarian tradition than perhaps the Mitt Romney “I’m all right Jock” school of economics, that tumbles off the shrugged shoulders of your village.

      There’s a scientific maxim, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. It means that if you want prove something that runs entirely counter to common sense and the existing evidence, you need mountains of data and acres of detail. You must supply sufficent evidence in sufficient detail to remove any doubt, and to rule out all other explanations.

      So for example if you wanted to prove that George Osborne was really an alien lizard from another planet, you’d have to come up with, at the very least, a video of him changing out of his human skin and gubbing down a guinea pig pasty whole. Mind you, many perfectly sane and reasonable people suspect Osborne is an alien lizard, so perhaps this is a bad example.

      The anti-independence campaign would have us believe that Scottish independence is extraordinary, and a bit like claiming that aliens built the pyramids. In fact it’s the other way about, it’s the existence of the Union which is the extraordinary state of affairs. Normal countries govern themselves.

      Proof is simple to find. Ask any Norwegian if they would prefer to send representatives to the Swedish parliament and be governed from Stockholm and you’ll get a big fat nej. Ask anyone in Iceland if they would prefer to return to Danish rule, and they’ll snort derisively. Portuguese people do not hanker for the restoration of Lisbon’s brief union with Madrid.

      Normal countries don’t send all their tax revenues and income to a parliament in another country, and then get back the loose change that Westminster finds at the back of the sofa, which we’re told is a subsidy. Normal countries, at least democracies, get the government that the majority voted for. Scotland gets the government our neighbours vote for, despite the fact we returned a single solitary Tory MP. Our governmental system is so warped that we have to take David Mundell seriously, even though he’s a representative of a fringe party of a tiny minority. Taking David Mundell seriously is not normal in any universe.

      Maintaining this extraordinary, indeed surreal, state of affairs ought to require an extraordinary standard of proof, yet the positive case for the Union is most notable for its absence. Demands from the anti-independence parties for detailed evidence of the advantages of independence are nothing more than a distraction tactic.

      Independence supporters have produced acres of detailed evidence supporting Scottish independence from an economic, political, and cultural point of view. The pages of Newsnet, Bella Caledonia, and other online publications are full of thoughtful, reasonable and detailed articles supportive of independence, but little of it gets reported in the mainstream Scottish media. That doesn’t mean there is no positive and detailed case for independence, it just means that the Union gives Scotland a one-sided media that doesn’t want to tell the whole story. And that’s yet another reason for independence.

      There is of course the option of settling for the status quo and I might have more respect for Brit Nat’s if they just came out and said “Scotland is not a nation or country merely a region of Britain”, but not many are likely to be that truthful.

  3. Jason Wright says:

    coming from a man who hates england, i think independence is a waste of everyone’s time regardless of what people who aren’t even from here say.. no one cares, nobody’s treated unfairly, end of

  4. chris byiers says:

    Thanks Jason for the typically uninspired and uneducated grasp of the issue you merely underline the problems with the NO campaign. Nothing positive, no contribution to the constitutional discussion other than scream about anti English sentiment. If you understood the topic even a little, it is as much about isolating the immaturity of blaming England for Scotland ills as anything else. Taking responsibility of the betterment of the nation and not blaming England for problems would be one of the benefits of independence. I am not exactly sure who you are aiming the “people who aren’t even from here” comment at but I for one welcome Mr Nash’s opinions and forum for serious debate, unfortunately like so many Brit Nats the discussion rarely evolves beyond, calling the First Minister fat, a nazi, anti English or some other form of throwing the toys out of the pram. If we get past that, its about scare mongering and continuing the Stockholm Syndrome that has handicapped Scotland for generations. If its a accusation aimed at me, which again would be a typically uninspired Brit Nat response to inconvenience truths, then I can assure you I am Scottish, born, breed and educated and if my current abode in the United States meant I should have resigned my Scottishness or hung up my kilt, I did not get the memo. When a Unionist can outline a positive and evolved constitutional future of the nation (cos even the most delusional Brit Nat can see the status quo is unacceptable to the vast majority) it will be the first. I thank Mr Nash for his platform and eagerly await the next template Unionist response about terrorist threats to the border, the scarcity of north sea crude, the secret anti english bogeymen the SNP are massing in Haddington, the possibilities of Scotland administrating …..well anything versus the globally significant contributions Scotland has made as PART OF THE UNION. You see what I did there, I highlighted a typical Unionist thread for what it is – an argument FOR independence, you see that right?

  5. Lucy says:

    It’s about time somebody took on the BBC

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