Scottish television revival 'will rest on top-quality drama programmes'

SCOTLAND must produce prime-time dramas such as Dr Who and Life on Mars to revive the television industry north of the Border, the chairman of a commission set up to save Scots broadcasting said yesterday.

In recent years Scotland has seen a "steep decline" in television production, including drama. According to regulator Ofcom, network commissions from all four terrestrial channels have halved in the past three years, from 6 per cent of the entire UK spend to 3 per cent.

In response, the new government has set up the Scottish Broadcasting Commission to look at ways to improve the economic viability and content of television produced in Scotland.

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Yesterday, Blair Jenkins, the chairman of the commission, told Holyrood's education, lifelong learning and culture committee that drama was the key to reviving the sector.

"Drama is crucial," he said. "It is the highest-value genre; it is where you get the most production funding, but it is also where you create the high-end skills that can benefit film and theatre as well."

Mr Jenkins said:

"BBC Wales has done really, really well with Dr Who. That kind of successful returning drama is exactly what we would all welcome in Scotland. It helps on the financial front and on the talent front and it helps build a reputation of the sector.

"If you look at the north-west of England, there is now a halo effect from dramas like Life on Mars."

Mr Jenkins, who until last year was the BBC's Scottish head of news and current affairs, also said there needed to be a revival in news coverage in Scotland.

From 2001 to 2006, the budget for current affairs television in Scotland (BBC and STV) fell by 45 per cent.

Mr Jenkins vowed to speak to all of the major terrestrial TV stations about why there had been "market failure" in Scotland in news and drama.

Jeremy Purvis, the Liberal Democrat MSP, questioned the timing of the commission when the future of creative industry was already being considered in the run-up to the Culture Bill and Scottish Enterprise reform.

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The commission has been criticised in the past after it emerged that it had been given a 500,000 budget and that Mr Jenkins would earn 387 a day.

However, Mr Jenkins insisted that a review of broadcasting in Scotland after 50 years was "long overdue" and that it was supported by the industry.



The sketch show builds on Scotland's reputation for comedy after successes like Rab C Nesbitt. Compared with drama, comedy produced in Scotland is still strong, but also needs commissions.


The award-winning television show set in the 1970s paints a bleak picture of Manchester. However, it has been a great success for the BBC and for the city where it was produced.


A success for the BBC, the Cardiff-produced drama also broke the mould by showing flagship shows can be made outside London. Now there are calls for such dramas to be made in Scotland.

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