THE BBC in London is considering taking over part of the broadcaster’s Scottish operations which help make flagship news programmes such as Reporting Scotland and The Nine, The National can reveal.
Industry figures fear the move may lead to potentially dozens of job losses among staff in Glasgow and cause wider damage to the country’s television sector as work moves out of Scotland.
Trade union Bectu is fighting the plans and has held talks with BBC Scotland chiefs – which has been instructed by management in London to develop details for the plans – with a further meeting due to take place in the coming weeks.
The proposal has been originated by the corporation in London and targets the future of two television studios in Glasgow run by BBC Scotland (Studio A and Studio B) as well as similar facilities run by the broadcaster in Cardiff and Belfast.
It is understood the two Pacific Quay studios directly employ around 150 people, mostly technical staff including camera operators, vision mixers and sound engineers who work on a range of programmes from news bulletins, sports broadcasts to documentaries.
Among the programmes made in the Glasgow studios are weekly flagship news shows Reporting Scotland and The Nine as well as network hits such as Mrs Brown’s Boys on BBC One and Richard Osman’s House of Games on BBC Two.
In addition the studios also hire in freelance professionals and independent production companies across Scotland. But according to Bectu, the London executives want to transfer control of the studios in Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff to BBC’s Studioworks based in London.
BBC Studioworks in a subsidiary of the corporation and runs the Elstree Studios which makes Eastenders.
According to its website is also “facilitates” ITV shows such as Good Morning Britain, Lorraine, This Morning and Loose Women.
It also works with other stations including ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky. Paul McManus (below), negotiator officer for Bectu in Scotland, said: “Staff in Scotland are concerned about how much of BBC Scotland will be passed over to direct London control.
“We won’t know for a few months yet whether this is going to happen and whether or not any of the staff will be put forward for transfer.”
He added: “The rationale the corporation is giving is commercial efficiency, though they haven’t given us any figures. All they have told us is that Scotland and the other devolved nations have been asked to put different models to the management team in London.
“The studios make BBC Scotland millions of pounds of income a year and that is money that will now be going direct to London.”
McManus said that the fear was that BBC Scotland would have less influence on television output in the country. “I’m not sure politicians realise how little say BBC Scotland has about broadcasting in Scotland because control of more and more of it is being sent back to London,” he said.
A further concern revolves around how the move would impact on the future of the freelance and independent production sector in Scotland.
McManus said at the moment BBC Scotland controls the two studios and when a programme is made local firms are regularly hired.
However, if the London based Studioworks takes over he said Scottish firms fear that the producers and directors coming up from the south of England will hire freelances they have previously worked with and who are not based in Scotland.
“BBC Scotland wanted to support the small independent producers in Scotland, commissioning them to do programmes and shows.
“At the moment they can say ‘we can give you time in the studio’, if this plan goes ahead BBC Scotland would have to say to those producers ‘you need to go and talk to Studioworks in London,’” said McManus.
“If the studio is being operated by a London-based company there is more likelihood of them using their connections to fill key jobs on a programme.”
It is also understood BBC Scotland is unusual in that its studios employ people on staff contracts, believing that helps to maintain high technical standards, while most of the people who work for Studioworks are hired casually.
A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC has recently announced plans to move more power and decision-making across the UK in order to reflect, represent, and serve all parts of the country. The plan will create jobs and investment in all four nations as well as strengthening our presence and support for the creative economy in Scotland.”