The BBC is facing another attack on its funding, with the Scottish government calling for £75m to be ring-fenced from the licence fee to fund a national PSB.
The SNP is also understood to be considering options for taking even more control over the licence fee, with a view to ultimately devolving Scotland’s proportionate take of the licence fee, which currently stands at around £315m.
A committee charged with assessing amendments to the Scotland bill, including a demand for licence fee funding to set up a national PSB and a formal role for the Scottish Parliament in the BBC’s Charter, is to begin hearing evidence in late October.
Indies and broadcasters will be quizzed over the government’s call for more influence over broadcasting and how that is likely to affect Scotland both culturally and economically.
In light of the current licence fee settlement, Holyrood is asking for interim funds to be ring-fenced from the auction of spectrum after digital switchover.
But in the long run, it argues that its proposed PSB - called the Scottish Digital Network - should be funded by the licence fee in the same way as S4C. It is thought this could be the first step towards a full split from the rest of the BBC.
But several producers who spoke to Broadcast outlined concerns that some of the changes could make Scottish output more parochial and less internationally appealing, potentially affecting both exports and M&A activity.
A Scottish government spokeswoman declined to comment on plans for full devolution of the licence fee, but said Holyrood’s “immediate priorities” were set out in the Scotland bill.
“The provision is intended to ensure Scottish ministers are fully consulted on future licence fee settlements, in contrast to the hurried and private discussions between the BBC Trust and the UK government last October, which effectively closed off until 2016-17 the fairest and most practical source of funding for a Scottish Digital Network,” she said.
“From 2013-14, S4C in Wales will receive £95m licence fee support each year while the equivalent amount for BBC Alba is just £8m.”
The Scottish government wants:
- To have the right to establish public service broadcasting institutions
- To be involved in future licence fee setting arrangements
- To have responsibility for approving licensing decisions made by the UK government for Scottish television stations
- To have the ability to intervene in local cross-media mergers that affect Scotland
- To be able to add or remove events from the list of those that must be shown live on free-to-air television