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Creating a Scottish Digital Network

Blair Jenkins outlines plans for a Scottish Digital Network to provide public service content in Scotland
Blair Jenkins
9 June 2010

The key recommendation of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission was the creation of a new public service digital network for Scotland. This integrated broadcast and broadband service is essential to provide secure and sustainable PSB competition to the BBC in Scotland.

 Public attitude surveys show that people in Scotland wish to have more choice and more competition in high-quality Scottish content. Overwhelmingly, they support the idea of the Scottish Digital Network.

STV has all but disappeared as a source of PSB competition for the BBC. The opt-out approach to regional broadcasting on BBC and ITV is a legacy model from the analogue age and reduces rather than extends choice. It does not provide viewers in Scotland with the volume and range of Scottish content that they demand. For STV, the obstacles in opting-out tend to be commercial. For BBC, they tend to be corporate.

The new service would provide a wide range of public service content including extensive news and current affairs, but also entertainment, documentaries and drama. It would be ambitious, risk-taking, contemporary, bold, original and intelligent. It should transmit programmes that producers feel passionate about and that audiences love. It would be distinctively Scottish but with an outward-looking perspective – recognisably Scottish, but not relentlessly Scottish, which is the way most Scots like to be themselves.

If there is to be no new funding for public service broadcasting, then we have to consider funding the new Scottish Digital Network out of the television licence fee. We estimated the annual costs of the new service at about £75 million. A similar but separate exercise for Ofcom came up with a figure of £77 million, so the number is probably about right. That is only about 2% of the income currently generated by the licence fee, so there is no question of the new service being unaffordable.

Digital switchover in 2012 makes it possible for the first time to create a universally available Scottish service without displacing any of the existing UK-wide broadcasters. The Scottish Digital Network is supported overwhelmingly by the Scottish public and unanimously by every political party in the Scottish Parliament.

The network should be seen as part of the broader evolution of the UK towards a more dispersed and less centralised model – less centralised both constitutionally and culturally. It’s the point at which broadcasting begins to catch up with devolution.

 

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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