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  By G.A.Ponsonby

BBC chiefs have been criticised after it emerged the amount of hours dedicated to news and current affairs in Scotland has been reduced to its lowest level for ten years.

The revelation was contained in a BBC Management Review report which reveals that the corporation has cut its news and current affairs output in Scotland to the lowest point since 2002/03 with 478 hours transmitted over the 12-month period.

The cut has prompted Graeme Dey, MSP for Angus South, to express concern that the BBC is short-changing viewers north of the border at the most important period in the nation's history.

With Westminster cuts impacting decisions on BBC funding, Mr Dey said the reduction in television news and current affairs output was further proof that broadcasting powers should be held by the Scottish Parliament rather than Westminster to ensure the best possible deal for viewers.

Mr Dey said: "With just over a year until the independence referendum it is particularly concerning that news and current affairs content in Scotland has reduced from 504 hours in 2011/12 to 478 hours in 2012/13 – the lowest number for 10 years.

"I fear that there could be a serious impact on the coverage of this historic event as a result of these cutbacks.

"I have concerns about the potential harmful effects of the cuts by the BBC in Scotland. BBC Scotland's baseline budget is being slashed by 16 per cent - with jobs losses and reductions across online, television and radio programming."

The BBC plans to axe millions of pounds from Scottish programme making despite around £320m being generated by licence fee payers in Scotland.

Mr Dey added: "The SNP is committed to protecting public service broadcasting.  The BBC is Scotland's national broadcaster and should be resourced to report on Scottish, UK and international events - particularly at this important time in Scotland's journey."

The cutback to programming comes just over a week after BBC Scotland Head of News and Current Affairs John Boothman defended the corporation's news output, including its handling of the independence debate.

Speaking on The Media Show, Mr Boothman challenged claims from Allan Rennie of the Daily Record that the BBC was being "too timid" in its coverage of the referendum and insisted that BBC Scotland had covered the independence debate "well" and would "rack up" its coverage from next week.

Allan Rennie and John Boothman on The Media Show

The broadcaster has lost several experienced reporters in the last few months.  Last week it emerged that Raymond Buchanan had left BBC Scotland.  Mr Buchanan's decision to leave the corporation followed a similar decision by respected broadcaster Derek Bateman to take early retirement.

There have been concerns raised about the ability of BBC Scotland to cover the independence referendum in an in depth and informative manner.

In July this year, the Scottish NUJ expressed concern after BBC Scotland announced its intention to use money to recruit of up to 15 trainees who will work on a "raft of programmes" on the referendum - but will have no jobs at the end of it.

The NUJ also warned that the quality of reporting from the potential candidates could suffer, saying: "It appears they don't need to have any journalistic skills or qualifications.  This certainly raises the question of quality and ethics."

 

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