BBC Scotland has advertised the post of its political editor following the retirement of Brian Taylor after 30 years in the post and 35 years service with the corporation. The job carries a salary of around £82,000 which seems to me very low considering it is such a key role in covering the current complex and sensitive Scottish political scene, and when salaries of around £200,000-£300,000 are commonplace within the BBC pay structure in posts in England – especially London.
The job advertisement says BBC Scotland wishes to fill 'one of the most high-profile roles in Scottish journalism' and the successful candidate will have to 'look beyond the daily news agenda' but must also 'demonstrate the highest levels of integrity and impartiality at all times' and 'deliver impartial reporting and analysis and consistently achieve high-impact journalism'. Clear frontrunners to fill the post are BBC Scotland's chief political correspondent, Glenn Campbell, and business and economy editor, Douglas Fraser.
Meanwhile, several of BBC Scotland's best-known presenters are leaving amid an urgent cost-cutting drive in which the Scottish operation evidently has to trim its budget by £6.2million by April. According to an article in The Times
, among those departing are Gordon Brewer, 64, the frontman of television programme, Politics Scotland
, which goes out midweek and on Sundays, and BBC Radio Scotland news anchors Bill Whiteford and Isabel Fraser. Long-serving correspondents including Gillian Marles, Reevel Alderson, Kenneth Macdonald and David Allison have accepted voluntary redundancy offers as the newsroom staff headcount is reduced by 20.
I recently reported that the director of BBC Scotland, Donalda MacKinnon, 59, has stepped down after four years in the post and 33 years with the BBC. She was paid around £180,000 a year. Her successor, Steve Carson, is already in place. According to figures published in The Times
, the £44million fledgling BBC Scotland channel costs more per viewer than any of the broadcaster's other stations. The article suggested that high production costs being racked up by output like the nightly The Nine
news programme have met with poor viewing figures and contributed to the need for savings.
The Times said:
'An insider claimed that the ratings for the station's flagship show were "disastrous" – often fewer than 4,000 people. However, the BBC is quoted as insisting that the new channel, which was launched last February, is exceeding expectations'.
A BBC spokesman told The Times
: 'Viewing figures for the BBC Scotland channel are above the BBC's own projections and in line with those of the independent regulator Ofcom. Outside of the five main channels, BBC Scotland reaches more viewers than any other digital channel in Scotland. The Nine
averaged a weekly reach of 170,000 individuals across 2019. It is extending the reach of BBC Scotland news and is bringing in new, younger audiences and continues to receive positive feedback for the quality of its content'.
Congratulations to Lesley Riddoch on her Fletcher of Saltoun Award from the Saltire Society for her contribution to culture and public life. Journalist, broadcaster, author, podcaster and activist, Lesley, 56, born in Wolverhampton and an Oxford University graduate, spent her early years in Belfast – hence her distinctive accent. Her mother is from Wick and father from Banffshire. She lives in a Fife village, running her own independent radio and podcast company, Feisty Ltd, producing a weekly podcast, and she writes weekly columns for The Scotsman
and The National
Lesley, who worked extensively for BBC Radio Scotland from 1989 to 2005 before becoming mysteriously 'estranged' from the station, is honoured for her 'tireless efforts to tell Scotland's stories and to bring new ideas to light'. Saltire Society programme director, Sarah Mason, comments: '... Lesley is a steadfast campaigner and activist in Scotland for many years and we know will continue to be so for many years to come. The awards aim to celebrate and bring light to some of the individuals who dedicate their expertise and time to the betterment of our nation and internationally. Their work and recognition of their work is more important than ever'.
Lesley, a co-founder of the think tank, Nordic Horizons, told me: 'What I've got now is this fabulous award and a great feeling of pride because of this recognition by my ain folk'.
A Facebook message reads: 'Whatever you articulate, you do it with outstanding credibility, clarity and respect for others. A fabulous award for Scotland's tireless cheerleade'. I most certainly second that!
Much sorrow in Scottish media circles this week with the deaths of two men who made major contributions in their journalistic endeavours in very different ways – Kevin McCarra and John Duncanson.
Glasgow University honours graduate, Kevin, chief football correspondent of The Guardian
from 2002-2012, has, cruelly, died from Alzheimer's disease, aged only 62. Along the way he worked for The Scottish Field
, Scotland on Sunday
, The Times
, Sunday Times
, and, finally, The Guardian
. He also wrote two books on Celtic FC.
In a beautifully crafted obituary in The Guardian
, which I urge you to read, Jonathan Wilson, wrote: 'Kevin was one of those who transformed football journalism. Out went the jaded hackery of old, and in came a far more literary sensibility'. Wilson concluded: 'He was unashamedly erudite, but also had great warmth. He was a pioneer who changed Scottish football journalism but, most fundamentally, he was a thoroughly nice man'.
Kevin was a founding journalist on Scotland on Sunday
in 1988 and a key member of staff in the paper's formative years. Stuart Bathgate, who worked with him on the Scotland on Sunday
sports desk, told The Scotsman
: 'He was well respected and very well liked. In a bitchy industry, he was an angelic presence. He was studious and serious but with a sense of humour and a popular touch. He never tried too hard to entertain with his writing but his knowledge and ability to express it shone through. He was the master of the telling phrase stated simply. He lived quietly and was happiest with his wife, Susan, and reading books'.
Prestwick-born John Duncanson, who was aged 80, was the main anchorman on Grampian Television's nightly regional news programme, North Tonight
, for 18 years – from 1980 to 1998. He began his working life in stage management and then as an actor, before tackling television at Border Television as a continuity announcer.
John worked for a number of ITV stations and BBC Scotland, in both television and radio, before joining Grampian Television (now STV North) in 1979 as a reporter and presenter, and became a much-loved institution at the TV station. He retired in 1999, and moved to Inverness. Of John, more next week.
I salute a most compassionate gesture by The National
newspaper in coming to the aid one of its own contributors, Paul Kavanagh, who is in urgent need of practical and emotional help after suffering a devastating life-changing health blow. I will let one of The National's
journalists, Martin Hannan, take up the story in his in-paper report on 24 October:
'When Paul Kavanagh, the author of the popular Wee Ginger Dug blog and a columnist on The National
, suffered a severe stroke almost two weeks ago, there were no doubt some unionists who would have thought that at least they probably would not have to suffer his forensic analysis and satirical humour for a while. Then, as The National
has revealed, Paul suffered the devastating loss of the Wee Ginger Dug himself – his pet being put to sleep after arthritis crippled him at the age of 14 or so. As a rescue dog from Spain, no-one knew his exact age. Such blows would fell lesser men, especially as he is currently paralysed down his entire left side, but all those who fear the biting wit of Paul Kavanagh can tremble in their boots right now because not only is the Wee Ginger Dug blog and column carrying on, there is going to be more of it.'
And here is where the compassion of the folk at The National
comes into play. As the newspaper's way of supporting Paul for the foreseeable future, the Wee Ginger Dug column will appear not once but three times a week, including a diary in the Sunday National
which will document his recovery. Hannan points out: 'We all know this may be long and occasionally disheartening, but we earnestly hope this will tell the tale of Paul's full recovery'.
For these extra columns, which will run until Christmas, The National
will pay Paul above its usual rate, and provide him with support with the writing process. It also offered him free advertising to help promote his crowdfunder. Regular readers of the newspaper will be aware that Paul has started a crowdfunder to try and raise £50,000 to help him buy a ground-floor flat as he recovers. You can donate directly to the crowdfunder on GoFundMe by searching for 'Wee Ginger Rehab Fundraiser' on the website.