Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Mind Goggles

The Herald reports that only 48% of Scots feel that the BBC represents their lives.

While that is unfortunate, it is hardly surprising, since the corporation's news coverage has failed comprehensively to meet the challenge of devolution. Some years ago, presumably for reasons of Unionist paranoia, a very reasonable call for a Scots version of the Six O'Clock News was rejected in favour of a midnight opt-out from Newsnight — with the result that a single, monolithic news programme continues to carry a host of stories about health and education in England that are of little or no relevance to licence-payers in Scotland. Where such reports do not merely serve to confuse, they become a sort of soap opera whereby viewers are invited to form an opinion of what they might do in similar circumstances and vicariously cheer on their favoured (English) side. That inadequate service may only get worse, since it is likely that more powers will be devolved to Scotland if voters reject independence next year — if not immediately, then as a result of the inevitable backlash, since, whatever the referendum's outcome, the desire for independence is a fox that will need constant shooting.

Of course, people in Northern Ireland, a territory whose political culture differs even more, have experienced a parallel situation since time immemorial, with or without devolution. Yet Northern Unionists would be quick to complain about any homegrown flagship news programme on the grounds that it was a dilution of their Britishness; for allied reasons, Nationalists often follow Southern politics on RTE.

Linguistically, the BBC's Scottish offering is considerably less deficient, since Gaelic now has a dedicated station on both radio and television. Indeed, even before their advent BBC Scotland insiders were on occasion heard to complain of a "Gaelic mafia" able to access funding from Auntie Beeb in London that was unavailable to what they would have seen as more mainstream projects north of the border.

The real hole now is obviously with regard to Scots. Surely, since Scots has been recognised as a language, it is not too much to expect the BBC to provide a service in it. Yet that same language is often used (in a watered-down form) only in comedy, and often not very sophisticated comedy at that.

In the week the BBC announced plans to devote a large chunk of Freeview bandwidth to broadcasting two children's channels in HD — one for those aged six and under — that is obviously not good enough.

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