MEDIA: BBC Scotland has advertised the post of its political editor

By Hamish Mackay in the Scottish Review

BBC Scotland has advertised the post of its political editor following the retirement of Brian Taylor after 30 years in the post and 35 years service with the corporation. The job carries a salary of around £82,000 [the same as a newly-elected MP] which seems to me very low considering it is such a key role in covering the current complex and sensitive Scottish political scene, and when salaries of around £200,000-£300,000 are commonplace within the BBC pay structure in posts in England – especially London.

The job advertisement says BBC Scotland wishes to fill ‘one of the most high-profile roles in Scottish journalism’ and the successful candidate will have to ‘look beyond the daily news agenda’ but must also ‘demonstrate the highest levels of integrity and impartiality at all times’ and ‘deliver impartial reporting and analysis and consistently achieve high-impact journalism’. Clear front-runners to fill the post are BBC Scotland’s chief political correspondent, Glenn Campbell, and business and economy editor, Douglas Fraser.

Meanwhile, several of BBC Scotland’s best-known presenters are leaving amid an urgent cost-cutting drive in which the Scottish operation evidently has to trim its budget by £6.2million by April. According to an article in The Times, among those departing are Gordon Brewer, 64, the frontman of television programme, Politics Scotland, which goes out midweek and on Sundays, and BBC Radio Scotland news anchors Bill Whiteford and Isabel Fraser. Long-serving correspondents including Gillian Marles, Reevel Alderson, Kenneth Macdonald and David Allison have accepted voluntary redundancy offers as the newsroom staff headcount is reduced by 20.

I recently reported that the director of BBC Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon, 59, has stepped down after four years in the post and 33 years with the BBC. She was paid around £180,000 a year. Her successor, Steve Carson, is already in place. According to figures published in The Times, the £44million fledgling BBC Scotland channel costs more per viewer than any of the broadcaster’s other stations. The article suggested that high production costs being racked up by output like the nightly The Nine news programme have met with poor viewing figures and contributed to the need for savings.

The Times said: ‘An insider claimed that the ratings for the station’s flagship show were “disastrous” – often fewer than 4,000 people. However, the BBC is quoted as insisting that the new channel, which was launched last February, is exceeding expectations’.

A BBC spokesman told The Times: ‘Viewing figures for the BBC Scotland channel are above the BBC’s own projections and in line with those of the independent regulator Ofcom. Outside of the five main channels, BBC Scotland reaches more viewers than any other digital channel in Scotland. The Nine averaged a weekly reach of 170,000 individuals across 2019. It is extending the reach of BBC Scotland news and is bringing in new, younger audiences and continues to receive positive feedback for the quality of its content’.

  • Picture caption: Out in front for the political editor’s job at BBC Scotland is Glenn Campbell pictured with the rest of the team from December 2019, including Brian Taylor, who has announced his retirement from Pacific Qua, Laura Miller, Martin Geisler and Rebecca Curran. 

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