BBC Scotland has hit back at criticism from leading media commentator and journalist turned academic, Professor Tim Luckhurst, who has called for the recently-launched £32m BBC Scotland digital television channel to be scrapped. Ian Small, head of corporate affairs and public policy at BBC Scotland, immediately hit back by claiming the new channel continues to perform 'strongly'.
In a story in the Scottish Daily Mail
(SDM), Luckhurst, who was editor of news programmes at BBC Scotland for two years in the 1980s, and a former editor of The Scotsman
, said the successor to Tony Hall as the new director-general of the BBC, should shut down the 'white elephant' BBC Scotland channel because of low ratings.
Luckhurst, who is associate pro vice-chancellor at Durham University, commented: 'BBC Scotland faces unique pressures. It is losing its battle for news audiences to STV. It faces hostility from the SNP. Its new channel is a white elephant. Tony Hall's successor should close it'. He said a new director-general 'would feel able to drop' the channel as 'it will be seen as Tony Hall's project and a successor would not feel bound by his commitment'.
The SDM quoted figures which claimed the digital channel's audience slumped by more than 45% since its launch in February 2019. The average number of viewers per month was said to be just over 21,000 in July – down from around 39,000 in March. The audience for the flagship news show, The Nine
, was said to have fallen as low as 2,700 – close to a 0% audience share.
Ian Small responded: 'Both audiences and the creative sector here in Scotland have warmly welcomed a channel which continues to perform strongly, with viewing figures firmly in line with our projections, and more importantly, with those of the independent regulator Ofcom. Outside of the five main channels, BBC Scotland has the highest reach of any digital channel in Scotland and its performance is ahead of the BBC's expectations. Overall, it is adding a more socially diverse audience to the BBC portfolio and requests to view BBC Scotland programmes on the iPlayer rose 125% to 62m in 2019... The channel has also boosted the country's creative sector, with more than 70 independent companies supplying programming, while audiences have been very positive to many titles, including the two-parter Murder Trial
, drama Guilt
, factual series Inside Central Station
, and the one-off documentary Being Gail Porter
Meantime, it has emerged that STV had more news viewers last year than BBC Scotland's flagship news programme Reporting Scotland
. STV News at Six
had an average audience of 390,000 in 2019 – a 30% share of total viewers in Scotland, while Reporting Scotland
had an average audience of 380,000 – a 28% share.
Steven Ladurantaye, STV's head of news, said: 'We take our public service broadcasting commitments very seriously, investing significantly in a high-quality, impartial news service that is trusted by viewers across the country'. A BBC Scotland spokesman said: 'We are pleased 80% of adults consumed BBC News
during any given week – a figure any news provider would be delighted with'.
Scottish journalist, Ian McCormack, believed to be the longest-serving newspaper editor in Britain, has retired after running the Isle of Skye-based weekly, West Highland Free Press
), for approaching 44 years, and along the way overseeing production of 2,290 editions of the paper.
Ian joined the WHFP as a reporter in October 1975, before being promoted a few months later to replace the departing Calum Neish. Media website HoldTheFrontPage (HTFP) reports that it is estimated that Ian has edited more than 60,000 pages and looked over 75m words during a four-decade period with the title, which is based at Broadford. Ian had begun his career at the weekly Kilmarnock Standard
, later working for the then titled Glasgow Herald
before moving to Skye.
managing director, Paul Wood, told HTFP: 'Anyone who knows Ian well will know how understated he is, and that he'll hate any fuss to be made over his retirement. That won't stop me from not only paying tribute to Ian's unswerving loyalty and commitment to the West Highland Free Press
over a 45-year career, 44 of those as editor, but also praising Ian's central, often overlooked, part in the paper's longevity, reputation and success. He has served this paper and our community with distinction. His contribution to Highlands and Islands life is immeasurable'. A new editor will be appointed shortly.
In September 2014, HTFP reported that Drew Cochrane, of the Largs & Millport Weekly News
, and the longest-serving editor in British journalism at the time, had left the paper on the 40th anniversary of his appointment. The WHFP
was founded in 1972 as a left-wing weekly newspaper. Its founder-editor was Brian Wilson, who subsequently moved into politics as a Labour MP and a minister in a Labour Government. He was made a CBE in the most recent New Year Honours list. In 2009, the WHFP
became the only employee-owned newspaper in the UK.
Dominic Ponsford, the editor of the influential media website, Press Gazette, has declared that four British right-wing national newspapers could have been the decisive factor in the UK opting to leave the European Union.
Writing last Friday, on Brexit Day, Dominic commented: 'Many of today's national newspaper front-pages strike a triumphalist tone as the UK leaves the European Union tonight. And well they might. The Sun
, Daily Telegraph
, Daily Mail
and Daily Express
have all been long-term, forthright backers of Brexit, and my analysis suggests their influence could well have tipped the balance in the 2016 EU Referendum. When historians come to write about what drove Britain's decision to leave the EU they may well surmise that it was Fleet Street "wot won it" for the Leave side of the argument, to coin a phrase.
'Today the Daily Express
claimed victory in its long-running anti-EU campaign with a front-page that says: "Yes, we did it!" The Daily Telegraph
charted its role campaigning for Brexit and celebrated the key part played by its star correspondent: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Sun's
front-page headline states: "Our time has come". And the Daily Mail's
splash celebrates: "A new dawn for Britain". Brexit may go down in history as the last hurrah of Britain's once dominant and highly partisan printed press in terms of having a decisive impact on a key national turning point.
'In the final month approaching the EU Referendum on 23 June 2016, The Sun
did not just campaign in their editorials for Brexit, but also strongly favoured Leave in their choice of coverage. Because The Sun
, in particular, have (and had) market-leading circulations, this all had the effect of giving UK national newspaper coverage a heavy slant in favour of Brexit.'
Dominic explains that the Press Gazette had analysed coverage at the time using its Brexitometer. He points out: 'Around 250m UK national newspapers were published in the month approaching the Brexit vote. Of these, around 90m carried front-page stories which favoured Leave versus 30m which favoured Remain and just under 140m where the front-page favoured neither position.
'The Daily Express
was the most strident in its coverage with 26 out of 28 front pages in the month approaching the Brexit vote running positive stories for the Leave side of the argument. When you look at the front-page stories which favoured Leave versus the front-page stories which favoured Remain in the last month of campaigning, the Daily Mail
had a net front-page benefit for Leave of 19. For the Daily Telegraph
it was 16 and for The Sun
it was 15. Together, those four papers had a combined daily circulation at the time of 3.3m. According to the National Readership Survey, they had a reach over the course of the month of 28m. Compare this to the referendum result – 17.4m in favour of Leave versus 16.1m for Remain – and it is not hard to argue that the influence of Fleet Street may well have been decisive.
'And let's not forget that the influence of newspapers goes far beyond the actual readers. There is an amplification effect whereby sensational stories are repeated verbally and passed on via social media. The only really staunchly pro-EU national newspaper in the run-up to the referendum was The Guardian,
which in print circulation terms was (and is) a minnow compared to the Brexit big four.'