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Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

The Trouble with the BBC and its view of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, December 1st 2019

The BBC is one of the defining institutions of the UK for both supporters and detractors. Increasingly the BBC is not in a good place. It is not having a good election. This follows on from criticism of its coverage of the 2014 indyref and 2016 Brexit vote.

On top of this the BBC finds itself under fire from every political direction – Corbynistas, Scottish independence supporters and right-wing Conservatives.

The media landscape the BBC sits in is profoundly changing. This is now an age of multi-platform viewing, of Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV+ and others, and of a younger generation which consumes less terrestrial TV. This raises questions about the sustainability of the BBC and the licence fee.

Philip Schlesinger of Glasgow University observes that the BBC finds itself in ‘a media space increasingly crowded by new entrants with deep pockets. By comparison, the BBC is hyper-regulated and increasingly under-financed.’

Trouble at this election has to be seen against this backdrop. The Boris Johnson-Andrew Neil non-interview controversy saw the BBC say he couldn’t do Marr unless he also did Neil and then cravenly cave in; the decision to cut the laughter of the ‘Question Time’ audience when Johnson was asked about truth; and the doctored footage of Johnson at the Cenotaph. Before that Andrew Marr was ticked off for saying to Priti Patel ‘I can’t see why you are laughing’; and prior to that there was the mess over BBC presenter Naga Munchetty reprimanded for her criticism of Donald Trump’s racism. Read the rest of this entry »

The Birth of the New: BBC Scotland Finally Takes Off

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, 27 February 2019

BBC Scotland’s new channel launched on Sunday at 7pm. There was a small amount of expectation, a countdown, and even nervousness. Sitting, waiting for it to begin, in those last few seconds I reflected how seldom a new TV channel is born on old-fashioned telly. The last I remember being Channel 4 in the 1980s, with Five not at the outset or since really registering.

Then it came on air. The first night opened with the Chvrches and had ‘A Night at the Theatre’ with Iain Stirling and various worthies, followed by a doc on Asian weddings, ‘Still Game’, ‘Burnistoun Tunes’, and the star of the first evening: the BAFTA winning ‘Nae Pasaran’ about how a group of East Kilbride Rolls Royce workers took on and defeated the Pinochet dictatorship. The second night had the first ever ‘Scottish Nine’ news programme – which looked and felt distinctive.

First night audiences came in at 700,000, with a 13% audience share, and at points a big footprint in the 18-34 year olds, particularly during ‘Still Game’. All of which is a good start with the public. The station has got noticed. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorry seems to be the hardest word in Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 17th 2017

Power and privilege seldom likes to have to openly reflect on its place in front of others.

Instead, power likes to present its position as a natural state of affairs – to just be, manifesting and imbuing a sense of its own importance. This is how power exerts and expresses itself, from the City of London to senior bankers and the forces of international capitalism.

The same is true of Scotland and in recent years this has been aided by, in significant areas, power being in flux, challenged and even in crisis. This has in places forced it to openly talk about itself and hence its position. Examples of this include Royal Bank of Scotland after the crash, the Catholic Church and its serial scandals, or the implosion of CBI Scotland in the indyref.

Across a number of public institutions a common pattern can be observed about the way power and privilege operate when they are challenged. The three different examples chosen to illustrate this are one traditional force which imploded (Glasgow Rangers FC), one body which has played a central role in society (BBC Scotland), and another which has relatively recently become one of Scotland’s dominant institutions (the SNP). Read the rest of this entry »

The Last Days of the Old BBC Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 20th 2016

These are turbulent times for the BBC. The patrician age of benign liberal paternalism and enlightened elites knowing what is best for us, unquestioned and unchallenged, have long since passed.

We have now swung to the other end of the spectrum. Not a day seems to go by without the BBC being criticised from somewhere. The ‘Daily Mail’, ‘Daily Telegraph’ and Murdoch press conduct a never-ending war undermining the Beeb’s status – questioning the legitimacy of the licence fee and what they see as its dominant market position.

The toxic right want to destroy the BBC, but the left stopped being enamoured decades ago, and in Scotland all of this is added to by the experience of the indyref. Many respected voices feel that the BBC is shortchanging Scotland, and offering up an inferior service.

BBC Scotland’s problems have historical and cultural roots. The origins of a specific Scottish service were found in an age long disappeared. When the BBC high heid yins decided to allow a Broadcasting Council for Scotland in 1953 it was stacked with the great and good and chaired by the Lord Clydesmuir, formerly John Colville, unionist Secretary of State for Scotland from 1938-40. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting the Scotland into BBC Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 17th 2016

It has been a tough few years for the BBC – with challenges from every direction, and potshots and criticism from every quarter.

This week Tony Hall, BBC’s head, gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament alongside BBC Scotland boss Ken MacQuarrie.

Hall set out the BBC stall. Despite cuts, a range of digital possibilities and platforms were unveiled centred on the iplayer. MacQuarrie answered questions on BBC Scotland’s leaked plan for a new Scottish channel which he said ‘was never a plan’, but a set of brainstorming meetings and emails.

The BBC is in crisis. It is regularly shot at by right-wing opinion. It has long infuriated the left, and it didn’t have a good independence referendum, alienating a whole swathe of Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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