Commercial Radio (Office of Communications)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 29th November 2012.

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Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government what recent discussions it has had with Ofcom regarding the rebranding of commercial radio stations in Scotland and the level of Scotland-specific content that they broadcast. (S4O-01548)

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government regularly meets Ofcom to discuss a range of media issues. Earlier this week, I met Global Radio to discuss its plans for Scotland, particularly in light of its recent acquisition of the Real Radio stations. In those discussions, I pressed Global Radio on its plans for local content, music and news.

Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer. My concern is indeed the ownership of Real Radio by Global. As she will be aware, Global already owns what started life in Scotland as Beat 106, which was a distinctive Scottish radio station, but now the only Scottish content that it broadcasts is its drive-time show and breakfast show. Does she agree that Maria Miller was wrong not to refer Global’s bid for Real Radio to the Competition Commission and that Ofcom should be doing more to ensure that Scotland has its own distinctive commercial radio?

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I believe that Ofcom should carry out its duties appropriately. Currently, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government do not have powers over those areas.

More specifically, I think that we should hold Global Radio to account, and not just for its specific Ofcom obligations. The member may be interested to know that Global told me categorically that it was not closing down any of the radio broadcasting licences in Scotland that it currently owns, nor will it close down any of the radio stations that it plans to acquire. Global intends to operate the licences as distinct services, with dedicated Scottish programming and news content, and it wants to continue broadcasting peak-time programmes presented by Scottish presenters seven days a week on all its local radio stations. An important point for the Parliament is that Global will continue to operate news services for its Scottish stations that are staffed by journalists based in Scotland making editorial decisions for the benefit of listeners in Scotland. The member may want to reflect on previous decisions by a United Kingdom Government minister, but I think that she and all members in the chamber will expect me to hold the station to account on its word as well as on its specific Ofcom obligations.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I have worked in most of those stations. I hope that the minister is aware that the assurances that she has been given about Scottish content means only a Scottish presenter; it does not actually mean that Scottish words will be spoken. The news content is usually trimmed to news bulletins on the hour, which means that there is a very small news staff. I think that she must do more in pressing for much more advantageous decisions by Ofcom as far as Scotland is concerned.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

Clearly, if we had powers over Ofcom in respect of radio obligations, we could certainly do that. I will absolutely hold Global Radio to account on its content and its news content, and I think that the member is absolutely right that this is not just about the presentation of news that is made elsewhere, but about Scottish words and Scottish content. That is why I took an early opportunity to meet Global Radio—precisely to press it on its commitments in that regard.