Television in Scotland

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Television in Scotland mostly consists of UK-wide broadcasts, with variations at different times which are specific to Scotland. Scotland has no major television channel of its own and most people receive channels that are broadcast to the United Kingdom as a whole, including five terrestrial channels and various digital channels.

Terrestrial channels[edit]

Viewers in Scotland receive four or five public terrestrial television stations. All of these are regional variants/opt-outs upon British television channels. In addition to the three Scottish stations, the country also receives two UK-wide channels, as well as a multitude of European digital and satellite stations: Channel 4, and Channel 5, whose broadcast coverage is more limited, and in very remote areas difficult or impossible to receive.

BBC Scotland[edit]

Scotland has its own BBC Scotland services, BBC One Scotland and BBC Two Scotland, which commenced broadcasting on 14 March 1952 and 20 April 1964 respectively. Much of the output of BBC Scotland Television, such as news and current affairs programmes, and the Glasgow-based soap opera, River City, are intended for broadcast within Scotland, whilst others, such as drama and comedy programmes, aim at audiences throughout the UK and further afield. Sports coverage also differs, reflecting the fact that the country has its own football and rugby union leagues and national teams, separate from those of the other United Kingdom constituent nations and other sporting interests unique to Scotland, such as shinty or curling. Viewers on the Freeview HD platform within the BBC Scotland broadcasting area can now re-opt into the BBC network when Scotland opts out via BBC One HD and BBC Two HD channels, extending choice to Scottish viewers which was only previously an option for satellite and cable viewers.

ITV in Scotland[edit]

Three ITV stations (Border, STV Central and STV North) broadcast in Scotland. In the early 1960s, Grampian Television was created to provide commercial television services serving the Highlands and Islands, but in 1997 it was bought by STV Group plc, owners of the longer established Scottish Television. In May 2006, both channels were re-branded "STV" with newsrooms in Glasgow and Aberdeen retained to provide separate news services for their respective regions. Seven months later, STV launched news opt-outs for the East of Central Scotland (broadcast from Edinburgh) and Tayside & North East Fife (broadcast from Dundee). ITV Border has had a more complex position, as it also has to serve neighbouring areas across the border in England. Most of the independent television output equates to that transmitted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the exception of news and current affairs, sport, cultural and Scottish Gaelic language programming.

The available ITV station depends on region:

  • STV Central (formerly Scottish Television) which is based in Glasgow and covers the Central Belt of Scotland. It is owned and operated by STV Group plc, a company which evolved from the station, and since became solely interested in its core TV business once again. On weekdays, the station provides two separate editions of its regional news programme STV News at Six for the West and East of the region.
  • STV North (formerly Grampian Television) which is based in Aberdeen, and covers Tayside, the North East and Highlands and Islands. It is also owned & operated by STV Group plc, and carries the same regional programming as shown on STV Central but produces a separate regional news service, including opt outs for Tayside and North East Fife.
  • ITV Border, which covers both the Scottish and English borderlands. It is owned and operated by ITV plc. In February 2009, the station began broadcasting pan-regional news bulletins with ITV Tyne Tees from Gateshead with dedicated opt-out for the Border region broadcast on weekday evenings. Since 2013, there is a separate bulletin for the Border region, either broadcast live, or pre-recorded shortly before broadcast, and continues to come from Gateshead.

News Programming[edit]

There have been claims that British television news (which is the main source of news on Scottish Television) does not cater to Scottish needs: Dr Douglas MacMillan, of the University of Aberdeen has found that Scottish news was "peripheral" compared with English stories. His six-month study into the BBC showed 34% of all news focused on England while just 2% was dedicated to Scotland, despite having 10% of the population.[1]

Scottish Gaelic Television[edit]

In 1999, TeleG became the first channel to broadcast only Gaelic-language programmes. It aired for an hour everyday and showed archive shows. It ceased to transmit in 2011. In 2008, BBC Alba began broadcasting with its slogan being "A new channel for Scotland". It is a joint venture with MG Alba, which produces many programs for the channel. BBC Alba shows programmes of different genres, including general entertainment, news, documentaries, children's programmes, dramas, sport and films.

As well as these, the following channels also broadcast some Gaelic language programmes: BBC One Scotland, BBC Two Scotland and STV.

The Scottish Six[edit]

One of the longest running controversies regarding news broadcasting in Scotland has been over proposals for an early evening, weekday BBC television news programme, containing international, UK and Scottish items, produced and edited in Scotland. This proposed show is referred to as the Scottish Six.[2][3][4]

In November 1998 Professor Lindsay Paterson resigned from the BBC's broadcasting council for Scotland in protest, after it emerged that the BBC was hostile to allowing Scotland its own news programme at 6pm.[5]

In May 2006 Mark Thompson, the Director-General of the BBC, ruled out any prospect of a Scottish Six news bulletin to replace that produced in London.[6]

STV announced similar plans in September 2009 to launch an hour-long edition of STV News at Six, incorporating Scottish, national and international news with local ten-minute opt-outs for six sub-regions.[7] The pan-regional programme would have replaced the two separate programmes for northern and central Scotland, however the plans were later dropped in favour of a retained North news service and the launch of two separate news services for the West and East of Central Scotland. A late night current affairs programme, Scotland Tonight, was launched in October 2011.[citation needed]

In February 2017, the BBC announced plans for a dedicated part-time television channel to serve Scotland, replacing the current regional feed of BBC Two; as part of these plans, it was announced that the proposed service would feature an hour-long news and public affairs programme broadcast and produced out of Scotland, echoing the Scottish Six proposals.[8][9] The Commons Scottish Affairs Committee is due to examine this in spring 2017.[10]

Stealing a march on its traditional rival, STV used the opportunity of its STV2 channel to launch an hour-long news programme, STV News Tonight airing each weeknight at 7 pm and incorporating Scottish, UK and international news.[11] The half-hour programme, presented by Halla Mohieddeen, is produced in partnership with ITN.[12] Due to the constraints of the channel's broadcasting arrangements - as a patchwork network of notional 'local TV' channels, mostly centred on the country's traditional cities - this was not quite national coverage, other than online (STV Player) or via satellite receivers (Sky-only due to the channels' encryption).

Scottish television personalities[edit]


  1. ^ Money, Rachelle (16 October 2005). "BBC evening news guilty of English 'bias' Research reignites calls". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  2. ^ Garside, Juliette (3 November 2002). "Dyke: I'll not let Labour politicians block Scottish Six". Sunday Herald. Archived from the original on 3 November 2002. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
  3. ^ "BBC News and the Scottish Six: Scottish Consumers' Views on Value for Money and the Licence Fee" (PDF). Scottish Consumer Council. March 2004. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  4. ^ "Survey supports BBC Scottish Six". BBC News. 9 March 2004. Retrieved 27 September 2006.
  5. ^ Robins, Jane (24 November 1998). "Media: Why no news is bad news for Scotland". The Independent. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  6. ^ Sheppard, Fergus (29 June 2006). "'Scottish Six' bulletin ruled out by BBC chief". The Scotsman. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  7. ^ STV to launch Scottish news at six o'clock show, Daily Record, 18 September 2009
  8. ^ "New TV channel for BBC in Scotland". BBC News. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  9. ^ "BBC to launch Scottish TV channel with hour-long news programme". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  10. ^ Settle, Michael (6 April 2017). "MPs order probe into BBC block on Scottish Six news bulletin". The Herald. Retrieved 6 April 2017.
  11. ^ "STV to launch integrated Scottish and international news show". STV News. STV. 21 September 2016. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  12. ^ "Anchor of flagship STV News Tonight show announced". STV News. STV. 26 January 2017. Retrieved 27 January 2017.

See also[edit]