Labour deputy leader argues that Scotland would be better to keep public service broadcaster even if it became independent
Labour’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman, has accused Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond of espousing unrealistic plans to break up the BBC – and that it would be better for the nation to keep the public service broadcaster even if it became independent.
She argued that a new Scottish broadcaster on a £320m a year budget would have to take on additional overheads currently centralised in London such as “an additional BBC Trust” – the corporation’s regulatory and governance body – and that “looking into the details of what he is saying, it might very much unravel”.
Harman, speaking at a MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival session on Saturday morning, argued that Salmond should adopt the same policy his party adopts regarding the monarchy – and pledge to keep the institution intact in an independent state. The SNP should “not break it up”, she said.
Her intervention is a clear sign that Labour believes there is political capital to be made in defending unity of the BBC ahead of an independence referendum vote in 2014. Scottish homes pay about 9% of the overall BBC licence fee, worth about £3.5bn a year in total.
The politician’s comments found a little support from Richard Klein, the BBC4 controller, who said that “I can’t imagine the services will be as good. We have a lot of money you can amalgamate, amortise.”
The BBC executive went on to compare a potential Scottish broadcaster to Irish public broadcaster, RTE – held up by Salmond as one model for an independent Scottish public service broadcaster. “I do a lot of work with RTE, they are rather envious of the financial standing of the BBC,” Klein said.
Salmond said an independent Scottish PSB could adopt the RTE funding model, which mixes public money and advertising revenue.
The BBC raises £320m from the licence fee in Scotland, but Klein said that the broadcaster spends about £200m on programmes made in Scotland and regional output made specifically for local audiences.
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