The BBC is to launch a dedicated Scottish television channel with a new daily hour-long news programme thanks to its biggest single investment in the country for 20 years.
Tony Hall, the BBC’s director-general, told the corporation’s staff in Glasgow this morning that the new channel, called BBC Scotland, will have a prominent slot on electronic programme guides in Scotland, and will be available across the UK via iPlayer. It will come with a £20m annual spend increase for new drama and factual programming made in Scotland.
The channel will go on air UK-wide in the summer of 2018 with a total budget of about £30m and will replace the Scottish programmes currently shown on BBC2.
BBC Scotland will begin broadcasting at 7pm each evening and will feature a dedicated hour-long news programme airing at 9pm on weekdays, which will be produced and edited in Scotland. A 15-minute Scottish bulletin will show at 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Hall announced the changes to staff in Scotland today and said the channel would create 80 new jobs based in the country.
The move comes amid intense debate about the quality and range of BBC programming and spending in Scotland. Just over half of the estimated £320m raised from Scottish licence fee payers is spent in the country, the lowest proportion among the four nations of the United Kingdom.
For years activists in Scotland have demanded a dedicated news bulletin for the country with many believing that either a Scottish Newsnight would be a solution or a 6pm bulletin – the so-called “Scottish Six”.
The decision to launch a new channel and the 7pm bulletin is the result of a year’s development work by staff at BBC Scotland, according to the BBC.
The proposals need to be rubber stamped by Ofcom and the BBC Trust but sources suggest that this is likely to be a formality.
In a statement, Hall said: “I said at the beginning of the year that the BBC needed to be more creative and distinctive. The BBC is Britain’s broadcaster but we also need to do more for each nation just as we are doing more for Britain globally.
“We know that viewers in Scotland love BBC television, but we also know that they want us to better reflect their lives and better reflect modern Scotland. It is vital that we get this right. The best way of achieving that is a dedicated channel for Scotland.”