What might the Scotland Bill mean for broadcasting?
On 15 December 2011, the Scottish Parliament’s Scotland Bill Committee published its final report. The scope of proposed reforms is wide-ranging, taking in everything from powers over income tax to speed limits to the powers of the Supreme Court.
Of key interest are the recommendations dealing with broadcasting and how these will be negotiated between the governments in London and Edinburgh.
The Scotland Bill committee has recommended that appointments to the BBC Trust and the Gaelic-language service BBC Alba should be devolved to Scottish Ministers. The current Westminster position is that these should still come under the oversight of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Much more far-reaching, though, are a number of other recommendations:
The committee has also asked that powers be devolved to the Scottish Parliament to regulate public service broadcasters and that there should be greater involvement of the Scottish Government in future decisions on licence-fee matters. Such changes would have major implications for power exercised by the DCMS, the BBC and Ofcom as well as for STV as the Channel 3 licensee north of the border.ITV would also be affected, given its Border service.
Thefurther recommendation that the Scottish Digital Network (SDN) should be the focus for local TV in Scotland presents a challenge to the present policy espoused by Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. For the Scottish Government, the SDN is seen as a publicly funded project.By contrast, the DCMS’s view of local television is essentially commercial.
Finally, in a further quest to modify the existing exercise of powers by the DCMS, the Scotland Bill report recommends that powers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament to decide on the content of the Scottish free-to-air list of major sporting fixtures.