11th December 1998

BBC officially rejects the Scottish Six

The BBC rejected plans to give Scotland its own six o’clock television news bulletin – a mooted Scottish Six – on 11 December 1998, in a move that the BBC itself said had been condemned by all three opposition parties in Scotland.

With plans for the opening of a Scottish Parliament already well advanced, the SNP’s broadcasting spokesperson, Roseanna Cunningham was quoted by the broadcaster, saying, “all this decision means is that the BBC governors will be dragged kicking and screaming by the pace of events post-devolution towards a ‘Scottish Six’, rather than showing an ability to rise to the challenge now.”

National broadcasts irrelevant

One of the arguments in favour of a dedicated six o’clock bulletin for Scotland was that, with a separate legal system, many of the stories covered in the national broadcast were irrelevant to the people of Scotland.

However, the BBC argued that investing an additional £20m in new jobs and programme making in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, rather than producing a Scottish bulletin, would better reflect the devolution of power away from Westminster more generally. Of this, half – £10m – was to be directed towards Scotland.

Rejection expected

The 11 December rejection of calls for the Scottish Six wasn’t unexpected. It had been widely trailed, and was thus a formality. In late November, the head of BBC Scotland, Ken Cargill, said that, despite the governors’ decision, he believed the programme would, eventually, be signed off.

“The debate could be intensified by a poll for the Sunday Mail newspaper, which says that 61% of Scottish people interviewed are in favour of a Scottish Six and just 23% are against,” wrote the BBC in a 28 November 1998 report. “In the 25 to 34 age group 70% of people questioned were in favour and in the 18 to 24 age group 63% were in support.”

BBC Scotland announced

The Scottish Six continued to be debated for several years, and when it was announced in 2017 that the BBC was to launch a new channel for Scotland, the Guardian reported on 22 February that the corporation “has spent more than a year developing a Newshour-type programme to replace the Six O’Clock News on BBC1, commissioning a series of pilot shows using different formats, in the belief it would soon see a “Scottish Six” aired every night.” However, it conceded that reports had emerged the previous weekend that the plans had once again been dropped by BBC executives.

When BBC Scotland launched, the Scottish Six still didn’t feature in its schedule, but an hour-long, locally produced news programme called The Nine, did. Covering Scottish, British and International news, The Nine has a 15-strong team of journalists and presenters and is broadcast between Monday and Thursday. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, The Seven – broadcast at seven o’clock – takes its place.



Other events that occured in December

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