BBC Glasgow – by Duncan Harley


I had the rare opportunity to watch Scottish telly last night and tuned into the new Freeview BBC Channel Nine. Devoted to all things Scottish and with an upbeat launch week promising to be all over the land, I was - to say the least - interested in what the new all-Scottish TV station might have on offer.
Maybe there would be some upbeat content about local affairs down by the harbour, perhaps a new piece of Scottish drama or something geared to upstage that slightly odd River City or even a new take on the dogging sites in and around Torry Battery. 

A bit of Doric perhaps or even a piece about how Dundee’s national bard composed a song about why US General Grant came to describe the Tay Bridge as ‘a mighty long bridge for such a little town’. Surely there would be something about oil, or wind power or Mennie Estate or Buffalo Bill’s sojourn in Huntly. But no. None of the above. In truth, not that much from above the Antonine Wall made it onto the airwaves on that windy Saturday night.

There was an ageing documentary about how John Byrne took his stage version of Tutti Frutti to His Majesty’s but even that was somewhat Glasgow-centric and simply a lead-up to a part one re-run of the original TV series. Yep, the Majestics do make it up into the club-land beyond the Antonine Wall prior to Vincent’s infamous knifing in Buckie and yep, Glaswegian Mr Clockerty and his lippy Glaswegian secretary Ms Toner eventually become a number. But this thirty-year-old show, incidentally introduced as a twenty-year-old show in the documentary – itself a decade old, is just that. Three decades or so ago, this was ground-breaking and ranked amongst Byrne's much better Slab Boys and those Penguin covers. Nowadays it’s just a nostalgia piece full of outdated humour delivered in a style reminiscent of that Garnet era.

Then came a repeat of a documentary about Paisley-Punk-land plus something about setting a song-bird free in some pine-forest in the Borders. In between the scheduled programmes there were adverts for a soon to be broadcast docu-series about Glasgow’s Central Station. Seemingly, Central Station has allowed cameras behind the scenes for the first time in its 140-year history. Well I have news: Barry Coward beat the film-makers to it in far-off 1988.
In a supreme irony, both Coltrane and Byrne referenced the BBC’s failure to secure the song rights as the reason that Tutti had been stuck in the dusty archives for so many years. Nope, got it wrong methinks. Tutti was good first time round and no mistake. Second time around it simply exposes the new station to ridicule. And that perhaps is the point. The filling of some Glasgow-centric coffers with a few million BBC pounds might just represent some Southern plot to destabilise our national culture by providing just enough to pay for a few wages, but not quite enough to pay for much in the way of fresh content.

Broadcasting from 7pm till midnight, seven nights a week, the new station goes by the name of BBC Scotland and the on-line blurb boasts about ‘fresh features’ and stuff about ‘Scottish life and culture’
I suppose that it can only get better but in the words of Michael Marra ‘I wis not impressed’.

After seeing BBC Glasgow on a Saturday night, I concur with the dead bard.

Duncan Harley is author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire plus the forthcoming title: The Little History of Aberdeenshire- due out in March 2019
Tickets for the launch event for his next book are available @: Eventbrite


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