Scottish Television: What would it look like? (revisited)

Much has been made of the prospect of Scotland ‘losing out’ were we to substitute a Scottish Broadcasting Corporation for the BBC, here are some wise words on why it might be a good idea:

“It was not necessarily the case that Taggart was any more regressive than Eastenders  in its representations of national character, or that Burnistoun is any worse than Citizen Khan.  It is not even that any of these programmes are particularly dreadful in themselves.  The questions returns to institutions.  It is simply that there is a limited amount of space within the schedules and a limited amount of institutional and financial support for the production of Scottish discourses, with the result that there is a highly restricted range of images available for the representation of Scottishness.  Whereas the representations of English country life in Downtown Abbey take their place within a range of other images from situation comedies, police series, single plays, classic serials, drama documentaries and soap operas, the representations of River City or Waterloo Road become the only consistent and recurrent images of Scottishness available at the time.


These words were actually written over 30 years ago (with the exception of the programme titles which I’ve updated from Dr Finlay’s Casebook/All Creatures Great and Small/Take the High Road/Emmerdale Farm) by John Caughie in an essay titled ‘Scottish Television: what would it look like?‘ in that pivotal text on representations of Scottishness in film and TV: Scotch Reels.  Published as part of a concerted intervention in the Scottish media landscape, it prefaced a lively debate at the 1982 Edinburgh International Film Festival ( a great deal livelier than its equivalent session at this year’s TV Festival) they remain as relevant today.


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