Jenkins’s commission will examine Scotland’s place in the media world
“This is about a country which is achieving international success across the entire range of artistic and cultural endeavour. I don’t believe it. Does anyone in Scotland believe it?” he asked.
The BBC was dubbed “hideously White City” for its west-London bias, while ITV was attacked for steadily reducing its commitment to regional television. Channel 4’s own dismal Scottish record did not go unmentioned either.
Drawing on a theory recently put forward by Richard Curtis, screenwriter of Four Weddings And A Funeral, the first minister said the success of theatre, radio, TV and film was interconnected.
If one was weak, it weakened the others, he said, and this was why he was setting up a Scottish Broadcasting Commission, led by Jenkins, to find answers to the problem. Although we are still waiting to hear its exact remit and membership, Salmond made it clear that all options would be on the table when it reported back next year, from the legendary Scottish Six, to public subsidies, to devolving media policy to Scotland.
Naturally, the audience loved it. Almost everyone who got up to ask a question welcomed the initiative, and the wine-and-sandwiches room was buzzing afterwards.
After so many years of putting up with Scottish Labour politicians who may or may not have really supported Scottish broadcasting, but certainly would not diverge from the London message, here at last was somebody in power who could talk the talk.
But now that the backslapping is over, there are questions about how well planned the announcements were. There are certainly those who are saying that launching a commission is a tacit admission that the SNP’s media policy is not well-thought-out.
Salmond did say afterwards that he had always intended to launch a broadcasting commission, but it was not specifically mentioned in the manifesto, and Jenkins was approached to run it only in recent weeks.
The fact that the remit and membership are still being sorted out, and that Salmond went ahead even though culture minister Linda Fabiani was on holiday add to a sense of opportunism.
But while there is probably some truth in this, it overlooks the deep importance that the SNP attaches to getting control of broadcasting as a key landmark on the road to independence.
As Elaine C Smith said in remarks to introduce Salmond’s speech, broadcasting is vital to how a country views itself. As long as it is under London control, it is a potent glue to keep the union together.
As for the depth of the SNP’s thinking, observers co