By Hamish Mackay
BBC Scotland’s new director, Steve Carson, pictured right, will be reasonably happy that watchdog, Ofcom, in its annual report on the BBC, has given cautious approval to the BBC Scotland channel. According to a report in the Daily Mail, Ofcom says that although the fledgling channel is still establishing itself with Scottish audiences ‘… early indications suggest that the channel may have had an early positive impact on viewers’ impressions of the BBC’.
However, the channel’s flagship news programme, The Nine, continues to struggle. While the channel had a total average viewing share of 2.1% between April 2019 and March 2020, The Nine attracted an average viewing audience of only 15,890 per episode during its first year on air. And, overall, The Nine’s average share in Scotland was only 0.84% compared to BBC One Scotland’s flagship news programme, Reporting Scotland, attracting 28%.
I fear that it is unlikely The Nine will ever attract a largish audience – squeezed as it is between the early evening news programmes on BBC 1, ITV and Channel 4, and then BBC 1 and ITV again at 10pm, and BBC 2 chipping in with Newsnight. The formidable and ever-improving Sky News offers a 24-hour rolling news schedule. And, crucially, from 9-10pm, The Nine is competing with purportedly the cream of programmes in that slot on BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 each evening.
Surprisingly, Ofcom also found that Scottish viewers still rate the BBC’s news coverage lower then those living in any other area of the UK.