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Tuning into Scottish viewers
Television viewers in Scotland could be guaranteed more content relevant to their lives and interests under different constitutional arrangements, Culture Minister Michael Russell said today as he published a discussion paper on Broadcasting - an area currently reserved to Westminster.
The Opportunities for Broadcasting paper sets out - as part of the National Conversation on Scotland's future - what could be achieved in relation to broadcasting under four different constitutional options:
- maintaining the status quo
- implementation of the Calman Commission's proposal
- devolution of further powers to Scotland
- full independence
Further devolution of powers could mean the Scottish national football team's World Cup and European Championship home qualifying matches being protected for free-to-air transmission.
Mr Russell said:
"There is cross-party consensus on the clear need for an improvement in public service broadcasting in Scotland and I hope this will continue.
"Audiences in Scotland are not receiving the services they deserve. Clearly a Scottish Government with responsibility for broadcasting would be much better placed to take action to realise the potential of the Scottish broadcasting industry and overcome its current difficulties.
"The paper I have published today is about having a completely open and honest discussion about the options for broadcasting under four constitutional options - and about how we can ensure viewers in Scotland have access to content that is relevant to their lives and interests.
"For example, there is significant support for the screening of Scotland's football qualifiers in the World Cup and European Championship on free-to-air television. That is something the Scottish Government could take action on if it had the powers.
"Broadcasting makes a vital contribution to Scotland's economic, cultural and democratic life. The Scottish Broadcasting Commission's detailed evidence made clear that Scottish viewers value relevant public service broadcasting. It also showed clear demand for increases in both quality and quantity across a wide range of public service programming.
"I look forward to discussing this vital issue and listening to ideas on how we can best reflect the needs of Scotland's audiences."
Under current arrangements broadcasting is reserved to Westminster, although there is a dispensation allowing direct Scottish Government funding of Gaelic broadcaster MG Alba.
The Calman Commission made one recommendation on broadcasting - that Scottish Ministers should have responsibility for appointing the Scottish member of the BBC Trust.
Devolution of further powers to Scottish Ministers could enable adoption of measures to strengthen accountability for broadcasting in Scotland. That could include powers to establish and/or fund public service broadcasting bodies to ensure Scottish viewers have a choice and quality of programmes which reflects their needs.
Under independence, full powers for broadcasting would transfer to Scottish Ministers. It is likely that a national broadcaster would be formed based on the existing assets and resources available to BBC Scotland.