Visiting BBC Scotland in Glasgow this afternoon made me wish I knew more about the world of television. I love hearing time and time again from all the people we encounter how passionate they are about their work and Ian Small was no exception to this. He is Head of Public Policy and Corporate Affairs for BBC Scotland and shared with us his wealth of knowledge about the company and the transformations they have gone through during his time there. What really amazed me about BBC Scotland was the functionality of the building because they can film a broadcast anywhere. The whole building was open and there were lights on the walls and ceilings to be able to transform it into a studio. The architecture of the building is unique and they pride themselves on this fact as I could tell by Ian’s enthusiasm for it.
The design of BBC Scotland was one thing, but Ian really emphasized BBC as an amazing public institution. He could not say enough how unpredictable the broadcasting field is because of the rapid growth of technology, and this is especially important for us to understand as we begin to enter the work force. On top of all this they operate as a public network, so they do not receive funding from advertisers or turn a profit. This is so unlike anything we are used to in the United States. Our media worlds revolve around commercials and making money for the most part. U.S. media does not cater to the needs of everyone, like BBC does, but targets certain demographics that will consume products. This means a large majority of the population is forgotten. We do have PBS, but it really is nothing compared to the dominance of BBC in the UK and their variety of programs for all interests.
Ian stressed their goal of universality, and this stuck out to me because this does not seem central to the big broadcasting companies in the United States. Scotland is a huge country, so it is a priority to BBC Scotland everyone has access to the broadcasts. This topic also came up again when we were in the studio technical control room and Ian showed us the one non-digital piece of equipment (beside the clock). He then explained how they had this fossil of a TV in order to make sure the lighting is perfect and people with old or cheap TVs will still have access to quality television. In the U.S. everything is new and technologically advanced and if people do not keep up with these changes then they are left behind. BBC Scotland works in the public interest and strives to be accessible to the masses. This public business model has been successful for BBC and being able to compare this to the commercial market in the U.S. shows how it can affect programming. The motives of BBC are genuinely in the public interest, and Ian demonstrated this to us through his passion for his work and increasing the universality of their programming.