Plans to launch a new BBC channel could see commercial news providers ‘go the way of Toys R Us,’ a former daily editor has claimed.
Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom last week approved proposals for a new BBC TV channel for Scotland which will see the creation of 80 new jobs.
The new channel, which would replace BBC Four on the Scottish spectrum, would have a programme budget of £32m a year.
Writing in The Scotsman, he said: “When BBC Scotland was handed £30 million of licence fee payers’ money to launch a new channel, it was like all the corporation’s Christmases had come at once.
“But unlike spoilt children on Boxing Day, there was no-one to say “make sure you don’t waste all that money”.
“At the heart of BBC Scotland’s spending spree has been a plan to spend £6m on recruiting 80 journalists to produce a nightly news programme, even though that programme will inevitably feature the same events covered in other Scottish and UK bulletins earlier in the day.
“The BBC is using the licence fee to distort existing, well-served commercial markets.
“Ofcom has now indicated that it thinks all this is fine, that there will be no impact on existing news markets, but the powering up of BBC Scotland news.
“It has the potential to send commercial news providers the same way as Toys R Us.”
The BBC announced in February 2017 that it wanted to create the new channel, with a target launch date of the autumn of 2018.
In its provisional findings published last week, Ofcom said that the new channel “has the potential to make a valuable contribution to the BBC’s public purposes.”
It also argued that the channel is “unlikely” to have a substantial effect on competition and would not impact seriously on the wider market.
Ofcom will now hold a consultation lasting until 18 May with a final decision on whether the BBC can go ahead with the new channel due in July.
Steve Carson, multi-platform commissioning head at BBC Scotland, welcomed Ofcom’s announcement as a “positive step.”
He said: “We’re planning a channel for modern Scotland, a home for compelling, quality content that appeals to and reflects the diversity of Scottish audiences. It will enable viewers in Scotland to see more of their lives, stories and interests on screen as well as offering the chance to watch great content from elsewhere.”
“News and current affairs will be at the heart of the schedules, with a one hour, integrated news programme broadcast each week-night at 9pm, featuring international, UK and national stories, told from a Scottish perspective.
“Recruitment is underway to fill the 80 new journalism posts that will be created.”