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Opportunities for Broadcasting - Taking forward our National Conversation


Foreword by the Minister for Culture, External Affairs and the Constitution

Broadcasting makes a vital contribution to the economic, cultural and democratic life of any nation. As the Scottish Broadcasting Commission found, broadcasting at its best "has a unique power and impact which can enrich our imagination and our thinking, and our space to share, discuss and challenge as a society."

Broadcasting is the most significant part of Scotland's cultural landscape to be reserved to Westminster. For the first eight years of devolution, that meant that it was rarely discussed by the Scottish Parliament. That changed with the establishment of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission in August 2007, and the publication of its final report in September 2008. During the last twelve months there have been two Parliamentary debates and two ministerial statements on broadcasting, and the Scottish Parliament's Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee has for the first time heard evidence from Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC.

The fact that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have a legitimate interest in broadcasting in Scotland is therefore not in dispute. However the precise power over broadcasting that should be devolved to Scotland is still an issue for discussion.

This paper examines options for the legislative and operational future of broadcasting in Scotland under different constitutional arrangements. It begins by outlining the current position in Scotland - whereby all significant policy responsibility for broadcasting (and all funding mechanisms specific to broadcasting) is reserved to the UK Government. It then investigates the very limited changes to broadcasting proposed by the Calman Commission; considers options for more extensive reform; and, finally, outlines the opportunities which would arise in an independent Scotland.

Like all National Conversation papers, this analysis is intended to prompt further discussion and thought about broadcasting, while also providing basic factual information. A major National Conversation event on broadcasting will be held shortly, details about which can be obtained from the National Conversation address given at the end of the paper.