On last night’s Scotland Tonight, Labour MSP Patricia Ferguson claimed that a vote for independence would put at risk Scotland’s access to over £3 billion of BBC programming. It’s a curious and illogical straw-man argument rather akin to saying that if you stop being an ice-cream man you’re not allowed to have ice-cream any more, but we’ll let that slide until another day.
£3bn sounds like quite a lot of money, so in a dull moment we thought we’d study a week’s output from BBC One, the national broadcaster’s flagship channel, and see how much of it we could bear to live without.
25.75 hours of BBC Breakfast and The One Show. (Clearly Scotland would struggle to film two people sitting on a settee in a studio reading off an autocue and talking to people about their latest album/film/book/whatever.)
13.8 hours of other news (split roughly 60/40 UK and Scottish). Obviously we need to hear about the English health, education and legal systems – otherwise how would we know how rubbish ours were?
12.1 hours of quiz/game shows. Okay, it really would be terrible if we stopped getting Pointless (remember, if in doubt, just say “Central African Republic”), but isn’t it interesting that there’s under two hours more news than game shows?
10.75 hours of people buying/selling houses. Imagine a world where you can’t watch middle-class couples looking for retirement homes in the Cotswolds or inflating the housing bubble by snapping up buy-to-let goldmines.
10.25 hours of antiques shows. In a week? Did we add this up right?
8.2 hours of soaps. How would we survive without seeing the cheery inhabitants of Albert Square go about their daily lives, or four and-a-bit of medical drama about people falling into lawnmowers and stuff?
6.25 hours of Dominic Littlewood. The little squeaky-voiced bald man is our only defence against cowboy builders and rogue plumbers. But fear not – even Denmark can’t escape Don’t Get Done Get Dom, which is very definitely a fair exchange for Borgen, The Bridge and The Killing.
5.5 hours of random films. Has Alex Salmond even asked Hollywood studios if they’d allow an SBC to show their films? His silence speaks volumes, and there’s nothing about it in the White Paper, so that means no.
3.5 hours of non-news Scottish output. This consists of a Still Game repeat, River City, the Scottish bit of the Sunday Politics, Landward, and a series about the Commonwealth Games. It’s inconceivable that a Scottish Broadcasting Corporation could produce 210 minutes of Scottish non-news programming per week armed only with the annual £100m budget of BBC Scotland.
3.25 hours of comedy (includes 30 minutes of repeated Have I Got News For You content). Far be it for us to suggest that HIGNFY’s increasingly regular Jock jibes aren’t worth paying for, or that Room 101 perhaps belongs in itself by now. We’d certainly struggle to replicate Live At The Apollo’s format (comedian makes some jokes then spends five minutes spotting celebs), since Scotland has neither comedy clubs nor celebrities.
2 hours of cooking shows. As we all know, Scotland has never produced any chefs, never mind famous ones. We’d no longer be able to share Anthony Worrall-Thompson or Jamie Oliver. And who’d want to watch someone cooking deep-fried haggis with an Irn Bru jus anyway?
2 hours of joint BBC/RTE programmes. A SCOTTISH BROADCASTING SERVICE COULD NOT POSSIBLY CO-PRODUCE THINGS WITH THE BBC. MOVE ALONG. NOTHING TO SEE HERE.
1.2 hours of football. As it’s the end of the season, there’s only 25 minutes of Scottish football and 45 minutes of lower-league English football. On a normal week, there’d also be a huge chunk of top-flight English football, complete with analysis from Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen, spread across three editions of Match Of The Day, which would probably give a more accurate depiction of what that £3 billion is actually being spent on.
Filling in the rest of the schedule are such watercooler must-sees as DIY SOS, Del Boys and Dealers, Call The Council, and Watchdog. The BBC of course also gives us BBC Two (more gardening, more cookery, more antiques, more Dominic Littlewood), BBC Three (but not for long), BBC Four (imports and endless hours of spot-the-paedo archive footage of Top of the Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test) and more.
Just imagine, viewers, the ransom we’d have to pay to secure every minute of that in an independent Scotland. Or failing that, just watch the All-Nude Celebrity Paint-Drying Championships on Channel 5.