Blow to BBC shake-up of evening bulletin as ex­clu­sive Mail poll re­veals luke­warm sup­port for longer show

Scottish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Alan Ro­den Scot­tish Political Editor

JUST over one- third of Scots sup­port the BBC’s plans to in­tro­duce an hourl ong Scot­tish Six news bulletin, an ex­clu­sive opin­ion poll has re­vealed. The study for the Scot­tish Daily Mail un­cov­ered strongly-held views on the con­tentious pro­posal, which is caus­ing a grow­ing headache for BBC bosses and has trig­gered a ma­jor political row.

The Mail ex­clu­sively re­vealed last week how the decades-old idea of a Scot­tish Six had been re­vived, and it was con­firmed yes­ter­day that three off-air pi­lot pro­grammes will get the go-ahead.

SNP politi­cians are des­per­ate for the bul­letins to be­come a per­ma­nent fix­ture

in the TV list­ings, as they con­tinue to blame the BBC for their de­feat in the 2014 in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

But the sur­vey re­sults will stun the Na­tion­al­ists, as only 53 per cent of their own vot­ers back a Scot­tish Six.

The in­de­pen­dent poll of more than 1,000 Scots, car­ried out by Bri­tish Polling Coun­cil mem­ber Sur­va­tion, found that 17.3 per cent are ‘strongly op­posed’ to the idea, with an­other 15.4 per cent ‘some­what op­posed’ – a to­tal of 32.7 per cent.

At the other end of scale, 16.3 per cent ‘strongly sup­port’ it and 20 per cent ‘ some­what sup­port’ it. That leaves a con­sid­er­able num­ber of adults who are nei­ther for nor against the bulletin – 26.5 per cent – and 4.6 per cent who said they ‘don’t know’.

Four­teen per cent said they would be more likely to trust the BBC and 17 per cent said they would be less likely, while op­po­si­tion is strong­est among Tory vot­ers (63 per cent), fol­lowed by Labour (45 per cent) and the SNP (16 per cent).

Scot­tish Tory MSP Liz Smith said: ‘It is es­sen­tial that full and trans­par­ent con­sul­ta­tion is un­der­taken with staff, with view­ers and with key stake- hold­ers. This poll sug­gests there are very mixed views, some clearly against as the pe­ti­tion has shown, and some clearly in favour.

‘Any de­ci­sion must be backed up by the facts and th­ese must be pre­sented in a way which is free of all party political prej­u­dice.’

A Scot­tish Labour spokesman said: ‘There must be full con­sul­ta­tion with staff and more im­por­tantly the gen­eral pub­lic, as cur­rently fo­cus groups show a clear de­sire for a UK per­spec­tive on UK and in­ter­na­tional sto­ries.

‘Any changes to BBC news cov­er­age must be made for the right rea­sons and qual­ity must al ways be main­tained.’

BBC di­rec­tor-gen­eral Lord Tony Hall was hop­ing to make a for­mal an­nounce­ment about the Scot­tish Six within weeks, ac­cord­ing to in­sid­ers, but it is un­der­stood the broad­caster now wants to do more work be­hind the scenes. There was a hos­tile re­ac­tion in fo­cus groups, and a pe­ti­tion op­pos­ing the plan al­ready has more than 11,500 sig­na­tures.

How­ever, the bul­letins are still likely to get the go-ahead and are set to be in­tro­duced on TV screens in 2017. Some BBC jour­nal­ists were fu­ri­ous af­ter first learn­ing about the pro­pos­als in the Mail, and there was an emer­gency meet­ing in the cor­po­ra­tion’s Scot­tish HQ in Glas­gow last week. But it is un­der­stood that mem­bers of the Na­tional Union of Jour­nal­ists there yes­ter­day voted to sup­port three pi­lot shows.

Ac­cord­ing to se­nior in­sid­ers, the hour- l ong pro­gramme will cover na­tional and in­ter­na­tional news. Around 60 staff based in Glas­gow will work on the pro­gramme, with a bud­get of £5mil­lion.

Var­i­ous op­tions for the for­mat are be­ing dis­cussed. One in­volves an en­tire show run, edited and an­chored from Glas­gow, while an­other al­ter­na­tive would see a Scot­tish pre­sen­ter ac­com­pa­nied by a Lon­don-based jour­nal­ist fronting a round-up of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional news.

Ex-First Min­is­ter Alex Sal­mond has been at the fore­front of the cam­paign to seize more con­trol of the BBC.

Writ­ing in a re­gional news­pa­per yes­ter­day, he said: ‘The con­cept of a Scot­tish Six should not be merely an en­larged ver­sion of the deeply de­press­ing Re­port­ing Scot­land. It is not an at­tempt to “put a kilt on” Lon­don and in­ter­na­tional news. What it should be is a com­plete news pro­gramme pro­duced from Scot­land, which looks at lo­cal, na­tional, UK and Euro­pean and in­ter­na­tional news through a Scot­tish lens.’

He added: ‘In broad­cast­ing tech­nol­ogy terms, the case is now unan­swer­able.’

The BBC in­sists no fi­nal de­ci­sion has been made.

‘Free of all party political prej­u­dice’

Call for change: Alex Sal­mond

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