BBC move slammed by MSP

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SOUTH of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has made an impassioned plea for the BBC to scrap planned cuts which will seriously damage its output north of the border.

Speaking in a members’ debate in the Scottish Parliament on the subject, she said that dramatic reductions in the corporation’s budget in Scotland were planned when it needed more money, not less.

Plans to slash the BBC Scotland budget from its current £102 million yearly to £86 million within five years were, she added, “part of a worrying trend which is damaging to our national life, democratic participation and cultural development.”

Ms McAlpine, a South of Scotland regional member for the SNP, added in the debate: “Far from cutting posts in news and current affairs, the BBC should be expanding them in Scotland.

“Just as our nation enters a period of intense debate about its future, the media spaces in which we conduct that debate are shrinking.”

Output from BBC Scotland which is facing the axe or under threat includes:

- The Introducing in Scotland show on Radio One – the station’s only slot broadcast specifically for listeners north of the border. The campaign to save this programme is also being supported by, among others, top Selkirk band Frightened Rabbit

- Newsweek Scotland, which is Radio Scotland’s most analytical and intelligent current affairs programme- The Janice Forsyth Show, also on Radio Scotland, which Ms McAlpine said was being “unceremoniously dumped despite audience protests.”

She continued: “The BBC’s Audience Council for Scotland reported last year that the BBC should show more not less Scottish news and offer deeper analysis in its coverage. [It] said there was a continued bias towards news stories that only affect England.”

The corporation, she added, talked about Delivering Quality First. “It is very clear that Scotland is not first in line when it comes to quality treatment.”

The debate was introduced in the parliament by Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White, whose constituency is set to suffer job losses if the BBC cuts go ahead.

Scottish Government culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said she would be sending an official report of the debate to BBC Director General Mark Thompson and BBC Scotland boss Ken McQuarrie to reiterate concern about the corporation’s cutback proposals.