Saturday 21 July 2007

Say no to a Scottish "Beeb"

Despite reports in our local newspaper, Scotland hasn't yet become independent.

One of those who wish that we were independent is Mike Russell MSP. I've met Mr Russell once or twice and think that he's one of the good guys: he doesn't believe that everything should be done by the state, an opinion that's far from universal in Scotland.

Earlier in the year Mike took part in a BBC programme about the Union. He wasn't entirely happy with Britain's "national" broadcaster:

Yet even so, the whole thing was undoubtedly skewed in favour of the status quo. The choice of non-speaking guests depended heavily on the Scottish establishment who are far from representative of Scottish opinion.
But Mike doesn't come down too hard on the Beeb:
Those problems can be put down to ignorance , and moreover an ignorance that is excusable , even if one would expect that by now the BBC would be aware of such pitfalls and take steps to overcome them (for example by drafting in to any London based production in Scotland some Scottish broadcasting advisers.)
So, if the bias isn't deliberate, what is really going on here? Here's Mike's answer:
Knowing many journalists and broadcasters as I do, however, I think that it is an institutional bias that is at fault. The BBC as a corporate body is part of the British establishment and its thinking is based on the continuation of that establishment as it is. The organisaton simply cannot envisage the validity of other choices, and consequently its actions are dictated by that intellectual blind spot.
Precisely. And that's exactly why the state shouldn't be involved in broadcasting any more than it should be running newspapers.

So will all be hunky-dory when Scotland is independent and that Icelandic building really is an embassy? Not necessarily. Here's Mike again:

I have also made it clear that my own experience as a programme maker left me in no doubt that the BBC was – at one stage – the best and most creative broadcasting institution in the world. Taking its programme making values and enshrining them in a newly energised Scottish Broadcasting Company, which could access the best of British and world output but present it and add to it from our perspective has long been a cherished policy aim of the SNP and remains so
Now I agree entirely that the Scottish license fee payer gets a raw deal from the BBC. Scottish broadcasting output is way below our contribution to the "national" kitty. But that's par for the course in centralised Britain. The question is, though, should we expect a Scottish state broadcaster to be any different? Indeed, a broadcaster with only 5 million home customers might well be even more in thrall to its own local establishment than is the Beeb. And an independent social democratic Scotland certainly would have its own establishment that wouldn't be representative of Scottish opinion.

Mike writes this:

And the real jewel in the crown – the guaranteed impartial, honest and high quality broadcasting service on which we should rely, and for which we are each as citizens prepared to pay - becomes tarnished , brittle and then broken.
But the BBC's not "impartial", is it? There is no guarantee. Why should we expect a Scottish state broadcaster to be any different? I'm certainly not "prepared" to pay for one voluntarily. If Mike really wants Scotland to be an example to other countries why doesn't he campaign for a totally free market in broadcasting? Let's have a hundred Scottish Broadcasting Companies.

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