Scottish news broadcasting

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During the first four years of its existence, the BBC worked under an agreement with the news agencies made at the end of 1922.

Agreement for national news bulletins

The cost of news was 5d per licence on the first 200,000 licences, 2d on 2/300,000, 1d on 3/400,000, ½d 4/600,000, and a farthing thereafter, with a minimum payment of £4,000 per annum. A daily summary of between 1200 and 2400 words was promised. In 1926, for example, the BBC paid Reuters approximately £7,500, although they frequently supplied much more than the maximum number of words called for. The terms of supply were much more favourable than those given to the newspapers.[1]

Reith's conception of news

Public demand had never factored into Reith’s conception of broadcast news. In his opinion it should be a ‘dignified announcement of the more important happenings in the world’ rather than the sensationalist reporting of murders and divorces which was the staple fare of many newspapers. The BBC had a duty to raise the standard and there was no room for ‘the practice of disseminating details of petty local happenings’.

First Scottish News Bulletin

The first daily Scottish News Bulletin was broadcast at 9 pm on Sunday 23 September 1928.

Reintroduction of Scottish news bulletins

Following pressure from Melville Dinwiddie, Scottish news bulletins were re-introduced from April 1935, initially on a trial basis but then continuing until the outbreak of the Second World War. They were broadcast twice-weekly on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with a duration of ten minutes. The material was supplied by Reuters on behalf of the four main news agencies, for which a fee of ten guineas a week was paid by the BBC, and George Blake was appointed by Reuters as its Scottish News Editor.[2] The Week in Scotland series continued, but concentrated more on the news of Friday and Saturday in addition to one or two short 'leading articles' on the main events in the Scottish week.

When The Week in Scotland was rested for around seven months from March–October 1937, a short five-minute Saturday bulletin was inserted into the 'Announcement Period' at 7.20 pm. This required an adjustment to the BBC's agreement with Reuters, costing it an additional three guineas a week.[3]

The bulletins were generally broadcast by the Aberdeen transmitter at the same time as they were from Westerglen, but depending on the latter's scheduling requirements, the Scottish Regional News would, at least once per week, be specially read for Aberdeen later in the evening.

Also in 1935, a bulletin of information for climbers, hikers, anglers and cyclists was introduced on Friday evenings, to some extent a precursor to what would later become the long-running Outdoor Activities Forecast.[4]

Second World War

In 1942, the BBC's Scottish Region appointed Archie P Lee as War News Organiser. Lee, who had been working as the BBC's press officer in Glasgow since 1938, became the first BBC member of staff involved directly in the compilation of Scottish news. He edited the first wartime Scottish News Summary on 17 April 1942, his chief responsibility that of "clearing" stories for broadcast; or, as an internal BBC document described it: "to collect news items from the Scottish Ministry of Information and Public Relations Office, from local correspondents where necessary, and the Agency Representatives".[5]

When Lee went south to work in the Overseas News in London, his position was taken over by Charles Anderson (sometime between summer 1943 to summer 1945). Following the Second World War, the title of the position changed to Scottish News Editor. Anderson resigned in 1948 to live in New Zealand.[6]

Post-war

From 1948 to 1972, the role was filled by James Kemp. In 1965 his title changed to Scottish Editor, News and Current Affairs.[7] He retired in 1972.[8]

Hugh Cochrane was appointed News Editor (designate) on 1 September 1972, following a career on the staff of the Glasgow Herald, The Scotsman and The Times. He resigned his position, however, in March 1974 after less than two years.[9]

Madeleine Strong was appointed News Assistant sometime in late 1942/early 1943. Until that point Strong, a graduate of Edinburgh University, had worked as assistant to the Scottish Region public relations officer, George Burnett, where her interest in languages often came in useful as an unofficial translator.[10]

References

  1. Director General's report for Board Meeting, 9 February 1927, BBC WAC R1/63/1.
  2. 'Broadcasting in Scotland: Summer programme outlined' Glasgow Herald, 22 March 1935, 10.
  3. 'Scottish News - Saturday', News Executive to Scottish Regional Executive, 31 March 1937, BBC WAC R28/228.
  4. 'Summer broadcasts in Scotland', Glasgow Herald, 30 March 1935, 12.
  5. Scottish Director to Directors-General, 'Scottish News Summary', 30 March 1942, BBC WAC R28/227.
  6. 'Broadcasting news', Falkirk Herald, 21 December 1949, 3.
  7. 'New BBC post for news editor', Glasgow Herald, 25 February 1965, 9.
  8. BBC Handbook 1974, 112.
  9. 'News chief quits BBC in Glasgow', Scotsman, 8 March 1974, 8.
  10. Ariel, 1 June 1936, 25.