Television: Here is the news: the BBC has lost its common sense about Scotland

There is a self-referential quality to television news these days, a lot of news about news. And the reason's not hard to find. News is important. News is power. News is too important to be left to ... well, news executives.

Take the BBC. How could they have backed themselves into their nonsense about Scotland? Did no one see that with the Scots in their present mood, with at least an autonomous parliament and in all probability a powerful thrust towards full independence on its way, it was impossible to deny Scotland its own national news bulletin? Did not one of those red-tabbed brigadiers in the BBC hierarchy spot how indefensible the BBC's position would be in a few months?

Of course the BBC has a duty to uphold the British national identity. But had no one there realised that the best way of doing that in the present climate north of the border (not to mention Northern Ireland or Wales) might not be to insist on a news agenda so blatantly offensive to the great majority of Scots in their present mood? We're not talking high principle or patriotism here. We're talking minimum, cover-your-arse common sense.

Three items about Scotland out of 280, if that is the figure, and more items about the pathetic England cricket team than about Scotland, suggests an insensitivity verging on the palaeosaurian.

One of the things the Corporation got very right was Sue Lloyd Roberts's film, on Newsnight on Thursday, about Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy leader, and the continuing repression in Burma. Lloyd Roberts's report was well balanced between her big interview and her equally memorable reporting on the dire state of human rights and the economy in Burma under the generals. I love the way she tackles these terrifying assignments with the modest air of a housewife determined to take no nonsense from the bank manager.

Will Channel 4 News take up reporting of that quality when it relaunches in January? The channel appears to have committed itself firmly to maintaining C4N's quality while modernising its technology and to some extent its style. It's going to be "different, but the same", says Jon Snow. Jim Gray, the newish editor, says it will be "contemporary, not skittish or faddish".

Channel 4 has committed pounds 10m to the upgrade over five years. There's a new, all-digital newsroom, bought from Quantel, and for the first time a studio of its own, not shared with News at Ten. This is also digital, with pastel colours - lemon, tangerine, ultramarine, and such. Channel 4 has spent pounds 750,000 on a mobile production unit, the "Snowmobile", to enable more stories from outside London. And they'll be buying more from independents: more investigations, more foreign films, and more reports from ethnic minorities.

When all this appears on 4 January, Jon Snow will still be at the helm, flanked by Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Kirsty Lang, with Elinor Goodman still covering Westminster. So the top-heavy management team, split between Channel 4 and the ITN building, are touching all the trendy bases - women, minorities, independent production, technology, innovation - without changing much.

My cynical friends have a couple of thoughts. One is that new brooms at Channel 4 wanted a more radical house-cleaning at Gray's Inn Road. Back-of-camera people get the glory when things change, not when they just go on being well done.

Second, C4N, which inherits more than one million viewers at the top of the hour, was losing many over its 52 minutes. One solution was to "smash the package": to keep viewers watching by coming back to important stories several times in the course of the programme, hopefully going deeper each time. Behind these tactics lie strategic questions for all news executives in a competitive multichannel world. They have discovered that news can make money, but the received wisdom is that you don't need to maximise audiences to maximise revenue. The slogan is "boutique the news", and C4N is well placed to do that if they get things right.

But my bet is that viewers know more about why and how they watch news than news executives sometimes give them credit for. Digital technology makes it possible to improve newsgathering and news production in many ways, and C4N had to grasp the opportunities. The question is whether they will mess about too much with what is after all one of the best news products on the market.

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'