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New BBC channel could see newspapers ‘go the way of Toys R Us’ warns industry chief

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.

But John McLellan, the former Scotsman editor who now heads the Scottish Newspaper Society, claims the plan has the potential to seriously damage commercial news providers.


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.”


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  • April 24, 2018 at 9:41 am

    It would surely be better to rejoice at the creation of 80 jobs for journalists, rather than lament the demise of something destined to be lost with or without the help of a new channel.

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  • April 24, 2018 at 10:31 am

    That’ll be the John McLennan who is the former Conservative Party media chief and a current Edinburgh city councillor. A party which is plainly determined to keep a diminished BBC under its thumb…

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  • April 24, 2018 at 11:42 am

    With or without the BBC, the likes of Newsquest, Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press are doing little but cut jobs, close print editions and shut offices. Like Darren Parkin says, if there are at least some journalism jobs and news outlets being created – other than sensational clickbait platforms – then that’s better than nowt.

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  • April 24, 2018 at 11:48 am

    The big wigs are always moaning about the BBC instead of getting their own house in order, if you gave 100 mil to one of the big three do you reckon they’d invest in journalism? No chance, the shareholders would pocket it and hard-pressed staff would still be expected to run around taking pictures on their phones.

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  • April 24, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    “The BBC is using the licence fee to distort existing, well-served commercial markets.”

    It’s also using it to help prop up your papers by funding new reporters to cover local democracy in your newsrooms.

    Funnily you don’t mention that.

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  • April 25, 2018 at 8:27 am

    The sentence quoted above by Yesterday’s news is a prime example of diversionary stupidity from those in charge.
    BBC websites and news programmes are a recognised brand far beyond any of the current online offerings from local publishers with a far larger and wider reach. If they didn’t have the tax funding they do and started competing in the commercial market as well then in all likelihood they would end up destroying what little revenue go to local media. As also said they are currently funding Journalists for many of the big publisher.

    It’s like listening to children sometimes blaming everyone else for the failings of their own

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  • April 25, 2018 at 9:59 am

    “It’s also using it to help prop up your papers by funding new reporters to cover local democracy in your newsrooms.”
    Is it?

    I’ve got two examples already of existing TM journalists down here who have magically switched overnight to become BBC LDRs. Their jobs haven’t been replaced. No jobs have been created.
    And yet the BBC proudly boasted “Local Democracy Reporter Service created up to 150 new journalism jobs”…..I think the key word is ‘new’ . So that’s up to just 148 by my reckoning.
    Anymore for anymore in this world of smoke and mirrors?

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  • April 25, 2018 at 10:49 am

    John McLellan, the man who ran the Scottish Newspaper Society into the ground, talking garbage again? Who’d have thought it?

    When the industry is in a state of near collapse it utterly sums up the clown show of Scottish journalism that McLellan and NUJ Scotland – still recovering from Holleran’s reign of terror – see the creation of 80 new jobs, new money going into Scottish indies and extra broadcasting hours for journalism in Scotland as a threat rather than a boost.

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