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.