Alex Salmond in STV ‘cash-for-programmes’ row

Alex Salmond in STV ‘cash-for-programmes’ row

Alex Salmond has become embroiled in new controversy over allegations he used
taxpayers’ money to buy favourable coverage on STV.

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Correspondence between the First Minister
and the network’s chief executive show STV suggested examining ways of
providing “television exposure for the benefit of the (Scottish)
government”.
STV caused
consternation last year by replacing a series of ITV network shows, such
as The Bill, Midsomer Murders and Doc Martin.
Instead their slots have been filled by repeats, cheaper imported shows
and Scottish-themed programming, some of which were sponsored by the
Scottish Executive.
Scotland’s
largest commercial broadcaster has also decided to launch a new
hour-long ‘Scottish Six’ news programme, in line with Mr Salmond’s
policy of doing away with London-based news shows at six o’clock.
STV and Scottish ministers branded the allegations “baseless and
inaccurate” but the Tories called on the industry’s regulator to launch
an investigation.
Ted Brocklebank,
Scottish Tory media and culture spokesman, called for an investigation,
adding: “Serious questions arise from the letters between the SNP and
STV. They can’t simply be swept under the carpet.

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“Mr Salmond’s attempts to manipulate the media for his own ends are
well known but if he has been using taxpayers’ money to buy favour and
influence then that would be a serious breach of power.”
A
Sunday newspaper obtained correspondence between the First Minister and
Rob Woodward, STV’s chief executive, following a seven-month attempt by
civil servants to suppress the information.
The letters show the
two men had an “interesting and productive dialogue” at a meeting at
STV’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow in January last year.

Topics discussed included STV’s aspirations “to increase the amount of
Scottish content” as well as the broadcaster’s commitment to a ‘Scottish
Six’.
They also show the channel, which posted a 55 per cent
drop in pre-tax profits on Thursday, sought to “forge a closer
partnership” between ministers and its commercial sales team.
In
a letter to Mr Salmond dated January 9, Mr Woodward also offers to
“explore how we can incorporate our innovative thinking around
television exposure for the benefit of the (Scottish) government.”

Three of the new series were sponsored by SNP ministers, including Made
in Scotland, examining Scottish icons, and Scotland Revealed, featuring
the country’s landmarks.
The third, titled the Greatest Scot,
was a five-night special shown in the week before St Andrew’s Day when
viewers were asked to vote for their favourite Scot.
But a
spokesman for the First Minister pointed out two of the five shows were
presented by Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, and
Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader.
Branding
the allegations “total and absolute nonsense”, he said: “This is no
different to the sponsorship arrangements we have with television and
newspapers across Scotland to promote good health and education
messages.
“The content of STV’s schedule and the material
broadcast are obviously matters for STV itself, and there is simply no
issue here.”
An STV spokesman said: “These allegations are baseless and inaccurate and do not represent the facts.

“As a public service broadcaster, STV is impartial and maintains a
close engagement with all political parties and their elected
representatives at both Westminster and Holyrood.”

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