The director general of the BBC today hit back at claims that its coverage of news in Scotland can be “mind-numbingly parochial”.
Nationalist MSP Kenneth Gibson told Mark Thompson that news programme Reporting Scotland can sometimes include “cat-up-a-tree-type stories”.
But Thompson said the programme was “really strong” and that it had “grown in stature”.
The BBC boss was giving evidence on broadcasting in Scotland to MSPs on Holyrood’s Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee.
And Gibson argued that international news coverage would be increased if there was a “Scottish Six” – a Scottish-produced national and international news programme.
The Cunninghame North MSP told Thompson: “It would mean you would have less of the Mrs-McGlumpha’s-cat-caught-up-a-tree-type stories that you sometimes get on Reporting Scotland.
“There would be things presented from an international perspective rather than at present, which is still on occasion mind-numbingly parochial in my view – that would be a better way forward.”
However both Thompson and BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie defended their news coverage.
MacQuarrie told Gibson: “In terms of Reporting Scotland I don’t agree with your description. The audience research that we get coming back is extremely positive and the performance of the programme is positive.
“We strive every day and every week to deliver better and better journalism.”
And Thompson said: “I think Reporting Scotland is actually really strong.
“I feel especially in recent years and especially with the devolved politics of Scotland to report on I think it has grown in stature.”
While there is an integrated national and international news programme in Wales, he said, research had shown that the current set up in Scotland, with the Six O’Clock News followed by Reporting Scotland, “works very well” for most people.
“What we do not get from the Scottish public, and have not had for some time, is a strong sense that they are being under-served or would be served better by reorganising that.”
But he added that some viewers believed there could be a bias towards the central belt area in BBC Scotland’s news coverage.
Thompson continued: “I think the biggest challenge for the BBC – judging by the letters, e-mails and phone calls we get from the public – is the desire for better coverage in the regions of Scotland.
“When people talk about metropolitan bias they normally are referring to London but actually you could say that some people in Scotland say there is a kind of central belt metropolitan bias in our coverage as well, which is something I think Kenny and his team have to look at.”
And Thompson told the committee there had been a “sea change in the attitude of the BBC to investment into Scotland” over the last few years.
He described the BBC’s new headquarters in Pacific Quay in Glasgow as “the most advanced digital broadcasting production centre we have anywhere in the world and a visible symbol of our commitment to finding great talent and making great programmes”.