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The Annandale Oberver Building, Annan
The Annandale Oberver Building, Annan

Even when Scotland was directly governed from London, Scots provided an enthusiastic market for distinctively Scottish TV and radio programmes, newspapers and magazines. This is a trend that has strengthened further since the Scottish Parliament resumed sitting, after a gap of 292 years, in 1999.

The Annandale Observer Building
The Annandale Observer Building
Celebration of DC Thompson in Dundee
Celebration of DC Thompson in Dundee
The Southern Observer, Selkirk
The Southern Observer, Selkirk

Although the arrival of large numbers of digital TV and radio channels, available via cable, set-top box or satellite, has greatly complicated the picture, Scotland has five "main" TV channels. BBC1 and 2 are broadcast by the state-owned British Broadcasting Corporation and are free from advertising, being funded by a licence fee payable by every TV owner in the UK. BBC1 is the more mainstream and popular of the two, with BBC2 being free to take a more specialist view. As transmitted in Scotland, BBC news programmes are UK wide, with Scottish add-ons. The BBC also produces a number of distinctively Scottish documentaries, dramas and comedies for broadcast on the BBC channels in Scotland, while BBC2 in Scotland also transmits some programmes in Gaelic.

The third "main" channel is ITV, which is funded by advertising and is broadcast by a series of regional franchises across the UK. Scotland falls within three different ITV franchise areas. STV (Central) operates from Glasgow and covers the Central Belt and large parts of the Western Highlands, while and STV (North), previously known as Grampian TV, is based in Aberdeen and covers much of the north and north east of Scotland. Both have an extremely solid track record of production and broadcast of Scottish programmes, which includes some Gaelic language programming. Much of Southern Scotland falls within the area of ITV's Border TV, based in Carlisle and broadcasting additionally to parts of northern England: though it's future is in doubt and it is possible that its area may in future be split between STV to the north and Tyne Tees TV to the south.

The fourth main TV channel is Channel 4, which does not have a distinctively Scottish flavour, and the fifth and final national terrestrial analogue television channel started life in 1997 as Channel 5, but has since been rebranded as "five". It can only be received in parts of Scotland (and the rest of the UK) and has sought, and achieved, a fairly lowbrow image.

Radio in Scotland is as fragmented as anywhere else. The mainstream is provided, as in the rest of the UK, by the five main BBC Radio channels: Radios 1, 2, 3, 4 and "5 Live". There is also a surprisingly large network of commercial radio stations available. Some of these, like Classic FM, Virgin Radio and Talk Sport are broadcast UK-wide and available across the more densely-populated parts of Scotland. Others focus on particular areas and range in coverage from Radio Forth and Radio Clyde at one end of the scale to Lochbroom FM, based in Ullapool and the Shetland Islands Broadcasting Company.

But in many ways the highlight of radio in Scotland is BBC Radio Scotland, Scotland's only national radio station. This provides a mix of talk and music that makes it a viable alternative to any of the BBC's UK-wide channels, and near-essential listening for visitors travelling round Scotland. In the Highlands and Islands, the BBC also broadcasts BBC Radio nan Gaidheal, with Gaelic language programming and music.

Many of Scotland's newspapers are published in titles or editions that are unique to Scotland. UK-wide tabloid newspapers like the Sun, the Mirror, the Mail and the Express have separate Scottish editions (and are usually advertised as the "Scottish Sun" or the "Scottish Daily Express" etc). As a result they have a strong readership across Scotland. Scotland's most popular daily paper, however, is the Daily Record, published only in Scotland as a stablemate of the Daily Mirror.

UK-wide "quality" newspapers like the Telegraph, Times, Independent and Guardian do not have specific editions for the Scottish market, and though available across Scotland, tend to lose out as a result to Scotland's two excellent home-grown quality newspapers, the Scotsman and the Herald.

Many of the daily papers that come with a Scottish flavour also have Sunday editions, though here they also face the challenge of the remarkable Sunday Post, a newspaper that sells itself as "a thoroughly decent read" and is perhaps the only distinctively Scottish newspaper to have achieved significant sales elsewhere in the UK.

Regional Newspapers retain a larger readership in Scotland than in much of the rest of the UK. The Aberdeen-based Press & Journal is widely read across Grampian and in Shetland and Orkney. Other well read and influential regional newspapers include the Edinburgh Evening News, the Dundee Courier, the Shetland Times, the Orcadian, the Oban Times and the West Highland Free Press. The last two publish articles in Gaelic and English.

A bewildering number and variety of magazines and other publications emerge from Scotland covering a very wide range of Scottish and non-Scottish areas of interest. Notable publications include the always fascinating Scots Magazine, which was first published in 1739 and lays claim to being the world's most widely-read Scottish interest publication. This is produced in Dundee by DC Thompson, whose many other publications include the Beano ad the Dandy. The best way to get a feel for the range of Scottish magazines on offer is to browse the shelves of any large Scottish newsagent.

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