The SNP's John Nicolson hits his former employers for six

Written by Tom Smithard on 2 August 2016 in Diary

The ex-BBC Breakfast host gets his policy for a Scottish six o'clock news into an influential report. 

Influential demands for a separate Scottish six o’clock news today marked the latest step in John Nicolson’s successful journey from poacher to gamekeeper – or should that be the other way round?

The former presenter of BBC Breakfast and Newsnight reporter, now an SNP MP, played a pivotal role in today’s report from the culture, media & sport committee into the future of the national broadcaster.

While the headlines of the report concentrate on concerns over the reappointment of the chairwoman of the board and the need for all staff earning more than the prime minister to have their salaries declared, it is six paragraphs half way through which could have the most far-reaching consequences.

They conclude that one of the BBC’s flagship newscasts should be replaced in Scotland with a separate six o’clock broadcast, made in Scotland. The report says:

“We recommend that BBC Scotland proceed with a news programme anchored in Scotland, with a running order of Scottish, UK and international stories based on news merit, drawing on all the BBC’s facilities and broadcast from Scotland.”

The committee rejected two other options proposed by the BBC – a slightly tweaked version of the current programme or a hybrid show from two studios with the show topped and tailed in Scotland, while crossing to a London studio for UK and international news.

Nicolson, the only Scottish MP on the committee, brought colleagues to Glasgow to take evidence and used his influence to push through the SNP policy – perhaps using his power as parliament’s new ‘go-to’ man.

The East Dunbartonshire MP told the Edinburgh News:

“I believe that a broader remit for BBC Scotland television news would drive up standards, increase job opportunities for journalists here in Scotland, and build ­audiences.”

Last year he attacked the BBC’s editorial judgement, telling the Huffington Post that it was time it created a six o’clock bulletin in Scotland:

“When Mhairi Black gave her speech - which has now been listened and watch more than 10 million times - BBC Scotland did not run a clip of it. They ran a bit of it with the sound down with the presenter talking over it. Then gave more air time to the Speaker ticking someone off. A lot of people think that’s bias, I just think it’s poor journalism and poor editorial judgement.”

A decision on how the BBC will proceed with changes to its flagship Reporting Scotland news programme is expected later this year.

A BBC spokesman said today it was "continuing to test a number of options as part of our ongoing review into our news services".

The statement added: "Ultimately our main aim is to provide the best news offer possible and that is why we're exploring a number of possible formats."

Picture: Press Association

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Martin (not verified)

Submitted on 2 August, 2016 - 21:01
What's the audience survey say about demand for this? Has there been one? Just don't remember ever meeting anyone who said I wish we had a new Scottish-based 6o'clock News programme, but I do remember people wanting to reduce the licence fee and for the BBC to cut costs.