CHAPTER THREE: CONCLUSIONS
3.1 The way in which Scotland is portrayed by television broadcasting is of relevance to the majority of respondents, and it matters considerably to many of them. The evidence suggests that most attention should be paid to including everyone living in Scotland, reflecting Scotland's character and informing/teaching about Scotland, whereas, comparatively, representing Scotland at a local level is of least concern, although it is by no means unimportant. More importantly, perhaps, there is a significant gap between expectation and performance across all the dimensions researched, indicating that much improvement could be made in many areas when broadcasting for people in Scotland. In terms of prioritising actions though consideration should clearly be given to improving the educational and information providing role of broadcasting in relation to Scotland, because this is an element that has high relevance and yet performance is relatively weak at present.
3.2 The strength of feeling towards the role of broadcasting in portraying Scotland informatively underlies many of the other findings that have emerged; not least those that indicate an appetite for strengthening Scottish coverage in history/heritage and other factual programmes. The performance of all 5 main terrestrial channels in portraying Scotland is broadly similar, although ITV emerges as slightly better than the rest, and significantly better than Channel 5.
3.3 The findings in relation to the news are more complex. On the one hand the majority are content with the amount of Scottish coverage; there is no desire for more, and yet, on the other hand, there is widespread interest in a new Scottish news programme. However, given that satisfactions levels with how Scotland is reported in the UK news are less than 50%, the support shown for a new Scottish news programme is perhaps not surprising.
3.4 Currently reporting of Scotland in the UK news is considered weakest with regard to coverage of social, and entertainment/the arts/music news and best in terms of weather stories. Other improvements to the news that would be beneficial include, firstly, increasing the regularity with which items are identified as relating to Scotland: this matters to people and needs to be put into practice more consistently. Secondly, there is a strong and widespread demand for local Scottish news coverage across most parts of Scotland. In the Lothians this demand is less obvious, presumably as Edinburgh is the capital and home of the Parliament, and is therefore featured more regularly on the national Scottish news than other regions of Scotland.
3.5 On balance, local news should be reported at the level of 'region' though this will not satisfy everyone. For example, those living close to or in Glasgow/Edinburgh are more interested in local city news. Residents in the Highlands & Islands, and the South, on the other hand, are possibly conditioned to, or simply accepting of, the fact that their local news is generally at the wider 'area' level, reflecting low population densities even at a regional level.
3.6 The good support for a new Scottish news programme on a new channel reflects the fact that many TV viewers watch the news on different channels. Whilst a substantial proportion (around a third) do watch the news regularly on the same channel, over half select their news from different channels depending on time of day or the actual news coverage. Moreover many, even amongst those who are loyal, regard having a choice of channel to be important.
3.7 The research also indicates that the majority of the sample (just over 80%) expressed an interest in a new channel for people living in Scotland. Undoubtedly, recording positive reactions to new proposals is not uncommon in survey research therefore there is a need for some caution in interpreting this result. Fortunately, on this occasion we can utilise the data from other measures to check the validity of the result. Firstly, for example, there is an appetite for more Scottish coverage across several different types of programme, and secondly most are only moderately satisfied, or are dissatisfied, with the current portrayal of Scotland by television broadcasting. Also, we have noted that there is considerable room for improvement in the reporting of news in Scotland. Taking all these factors together, plus the fact that a substantial proportion (around four in ten) opted to indicate that they were very, not just fairly, interested in a new channel, suggests that there is a real interest in a new channel.
3.8 However whilst a new channel is of interest in principle, designing a mix of programmes to suit everyone is likely as always to be challenging. At the total level the findings suggest that there is a stronger preference for factual and news type programmes rather than comedy or drama. Unfortunately this pattern holds true only for a particular age range - an older one. Younger people, particularly the 16-24 age group, would prefer a lighter touch for the new channel, with the emphasis on comedy and drama, and less focus on the news. Certainly, 16-24 year olds are less likely to watch the news and they have consistently expressed less interest in news programmes. SEG also has a strong influence on programming choice therefore the preferred programmes amongst those in the highest social grade are very different from those in the lowest.
3.9 The issue of the 'Scottish Six' (where Scotland would have its own one hour long programme produced and presented from Scotland as opposed to the current arrangement where the news is split between a half hour of UK produced/presented news and a half hour of Scottish produced/presented news) remains somewhat divided in terms of public opinion. The research highlights that more adults (53%) would prefer one programme produced/presented in Scotland to the current structure, but that the size of the minority preferring the status quo is substantial, at just over a third (36%). The split is roughly 60/40 if one discounts those who have no preference - so while change would be welcomed by many, there would also be significant opposition - particularly amongst those in the higher social grades, who do tend to be the heaviest viewers of the news. In the digital age, perhaps this is one issue that can be resolved by making both options available and providing audiences with the choice.
3.10 The findings with regard to the broadcasting of live Scottish national football coverage on terrestrial rather than on pay TV were much less ambiguous. Whilst it perhaps seems obvious that adults with an interest in sport would choose to watch sport for free rather than have to watch it on pay-to-view channels, the interesting point to make is that amongst the sample many who claimed not to be interested in watching live national football on TV (39% of the total) were also largely, and strongly, supportive of these matches being shown free on terrestrial TV rather than on pay TV channels.