BBC Scotland project – looking for volunteers

Ever wondered how much power it takes to cook a frozen pizza, power a games console, or take a hot shower?  Ever considered using alternative energy to power these appliances, reducing your carbon footprint and your energy bills?
BBC Scotland’s The Day the Power Went Off is an entertaining television documentary that looks at the way we use power in our own homes.
In this fun experiment, a Scottish street will go ‘off grid’ and explore the possibilities of alternative power. However, this is not a step back in time experiment, as the street will continue to use modern gadgets and live their day-to-day lives. With the help of Eco-experts and inventions, individuals will decide on the best way to cook, wash and keep warm in their homes. And they will have to be creative in powering up the karaoke machine and hot tub for the street party! 
We are looking for a Scottish street or collection of houses (north Scotland) who could be interested in this project.   The programme will be filmed in March 2013.
If you would like to hear more about this project, or know of any potential people or streets who might like to take part, please contact Natalie Moss at BBC Scotland: Tel: 0141 422 6342 or natalie.moss@bbc.co.uk.

Rule Britannia

This morning’s Recess Sub-Committee of Dundee City Council was a bizarre affair, with the SNP administration pushing through expenditure of £15 000 out of council contingencies to pay for an open air screening of Last Night of the Proms in the City Square, in the face of opposition from myself and Labour councillors.

I say bizarre because, leaving aside the expense to the taxpayer of this proposal at such a difficult time for council budgets, the SNP seemed awfully keen to support non-vital additional expenditure for an event that – if my memory serves me correctly – features such timeless British classics as Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory, all to the waving of hundreds of Union Jack flags.   Stirring stuff.

Whilst it may be nice to see what appears to be the conversion of Dundee’s SNP councillors to the merits of Great Britain and the Union, as tonight’s Evening Telegraph states :

“Opposition councillors today blasted a proposal to spend thousands of pounds showing the Last Night of the Proms on a big screen in Dundee City Square at a time when the city faces budget cuts.”
 
In moving refusal of the expenditure, I pointed out that although I am delighted that the BBC wish to bring the Scottish element of Last Night of the Proms to Dundee, the additional £15 000 to add to the existing capacity of 2000 in the Caird Hall (provided by the BBC) was something the City Council really should not embark upon at a time when the council is facing a huge financial challenge to maintain services and people’s jobs in Dundee.

The financial outlook for the City Council is deeply challenging (like the whole of the public sector) and the SNP administration has been thus far ominously silent about what cuts it proposes to make to balance the books. But it seems like the same administration is living in a parallel universe where non-vital additional expenditure is nodded through by them.

In the good times, having a outdoor event to supplement the event in the Caird Hall would have been a useful initiative, but it is surely profligacy that the council cannot afford at a time when cuts to vital services like education and social work are feared.

My amendment to save the £15 000 and use it to protect services was lost 4-3. It is about time that the SNP administration woke up and smelt the coffee.

Digital Switchover latest!

Yesterday at Tayside House, I had a useful meeting with John MacNeil, Assistant National Manager, STV North with Digital UK and Luke McCullough, National Manager for Scotland for the BBC Switchover Help Scheme, to get an update on how the switchover to digital TV is going – with just a couple of months to switchover in Dundee.

And the answer is that it is going well. Most people are well aware of the digital switchover and are prepared for it.    Further information can be found at :

Digital UK : http://www.digitaluk.co.uk/

BBC Help Scheme : http://www.helpscheme.co.uk/


Digital Outreach : http://www.digitaloutreach.org.uk/

Last year, along with Alan Cowie of Digital UK, I held digital switchover surgeries at sheltered housing lounges across the West End – these were extremely well attended and I am holding two further surgeries at Sinderins Court and the Lime Street sheltered lounge next month – this time with Colin Scott from the Help Scheme – details to follow!


Here’s me with John & Luke at Tayside House yesterday.
 

Wednesday update

Following the fallen tree issue in Tullideph Road I mentioned earlier today, I had confirmation this morning from the City Council that it will be removed tomorrow. To quote the Forestry Officer :

“I am aware of this tree and it is programmed along with similar others in the area to be removed tomorrow morning. The main reason for the time taken is the actual high number of damaged trees in last week’s wind when we had multiple trees blown against school buildings, houses and roads and we had to prioritise a programme of works, which is progressing well.”

This afternoon, at the invitation of the West End Boys Amateur Boxing Club, I attended their meeting with the BBC. It was good to see the BBC’s interest in the club that has achieved a great deal in a short time. We talked about improving facilities for sporting and community groups in the West End, something already being discussed with other groups such as the Riverside Boys Junior Football Club and Friends of Magdalen Green.
Tonight, I attended the monthly meeting of the Community Spirit Action Group, the residents’ group for the ‘north’ of the West End – Pentland, Ancrum, Cleghorn and surrounding areas. It was well-attended and good to see the group launching their first ever residents’ newsletter.

BBC Strategy Review

I am dismayed at the BBC Trust’s proposal in its Strategy Review to close BBC Radio 6 Music.
To quote the BBC itself, the station “brings together the cutting edge music of today, the iconic and groundbreaking music of the past 40 years“.
Radio 6 Music is distinctive and valuable, and offers a place for exciting new acts to be heard. It provides its listeners with content that no independent commercial broadcaster offers, and has helped artists like Florence + The Machine reach greater audiences. At 3.4 pence per listener hour, 6 Music is also good value for money. Closing 6 Music would generate a very modest saving, and it is not clear that this would be worth losing such a distinctive station.

The future of 6 Music is a decision for the BBC Trust to make after they have consulted with licence fee payers. Whatever decision is made, the Liberal Democrats are adamant that it must be in line with the BBC’s purpose: to make programmes that are distinctive, high quality, and of good value. I am unconvinced that shutting 6 Music would contribute to these goals.

There are two other aspects of the BBC Trust’s proposals that concern me. Firstly, the proposal to close the Asian Network is difficult to understand as is the proposal about :
“… not offering any more localised services than the BBC already does – for example, new services for individual towns or cities.”

I have given my feedback to the BBC consultation on the Trust’s proposals and you can give your views to the BBC on their proposals by clicking here.

Recent TV reception issues

I have had discussions with Digital UK and Arqiva Terrestrial Broadcast, who own and manage the UK’s TV transmitters about the recent TV reception problems, particularly BBC1 on analogue from the Tay Bridge relay transmitter, that serves much of the West End.

I have had helpful feedback from Arqiva’s marketing manager, who confirms that the recent BBC1 reception issues are resolved. He further indicates :

“I have spoken with Digital UK and they have sent me the link below which takes you to a document on the Ofcom website. In section 7 the document lays out the terms for notifying viewers:

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/transition/transition.pdf.”

TV reception problems

Reports in the local press today and yesterday (go to http://tinyurl.com/tvreceptiondundee to read last night’s Evening Telegraph) about TV reception and in particular BBC1 analogue reception in those parts of the city served by the Tay Bridge transmitter (including most of the southern part of the West End) has resulted in a number of complaints from constituents.

Given the quote by the BBC in last night’s Tele :

“A spokeswoman for the BBC in Scotland said there was not a transmitter problem, but she was unable to shed any more light on the cause of the interference”

it was interesting to hear from a constituent who lives just south of Perth Road and who, having phoned the BBC was told there were engineering works on the transmitter taking place!

 
I have asked Digital UK if the transmitter owners (Arqiva) has further planned engineering works linked to the digital switchover. It is important that Arqiva properly advises of engineering works before these take place, in the run-up to the digital switchover next summer.

Local Employment Partnership Launch

At lunchtime today, I represented the City Council at the Local Employment Partnership Launch at Dens Park, and signed up to the partnership on behalf of the Council, along with a number of other local employers.

Local Employment Partnerships are an excellent, innovative way of helping more people on welfare benefits into work and the City Council is pleased to be involved with the Partnership, to help improve employment opportunities in the City.
After an afternoon on “day job” activity, I’ve just watched the highlights of Nicol Stephen’s excellent speech at the Scottish LibDem Conference – summed up by the BBC Scotland Political Editor, Brian Taylor, thus:

“Good showing by Nicol Stephen, I thought – the Scottish LibDems conference liked what they heard”

Click on the headline above to read more on Brian Taylor’s blog.

Latest update

Attended Logie Residents’ Association on Wednesday evening. The group is looking to organise a survey of residents in the Logie area early in the New Year to get their views on local issues and gauge support for continuing Association activity.



Arising out of the meeting, I have spoken with a representative of Virgin Media about residents’ concerns about graffiti on the cable TV boxes in the Logie area.


On Thursday, I met with the Managing Director of Travel Dundee to discuss public transport issues in the City and had a guided tour of their Dock Street operations (see above right) – very worthwhile and interesting. I also had two further visits on Wednesday and Thursday to meet Planning & Transportation staff in my capacity of Planning & Transport Convener. I find such visits extremely useful as it gives me a clear understanding of roles, issues and current projects across a very diverse department.


Many thanks to Suz Blog (blog of a “floating Lib Dem supporter from St Georges Ward, Islington North – a tough blonde ‘cookie’ having her say”) for the link to my blog earlier this week (click on headline above to view this) I like Suz’s use of Snap Shots on her blog so have added this to this one!

Like everyone I meet, thoroughly delighted at Glasgow’s success in securing the 2014 Commonwealth Games – a great result.
Lastly, the BBC has finally got round to uploading to the BBC website their decision on my complaint about their ‘Scotland Live’ programme from Dundee on eve of poll back in May – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/news/2007/11/07/50531.shtml – although the detail of this contains factual inaccuracies at least the BBC accepts … “the item was faulty in the ways described by Cllr Macpherson, leading to serious imbalance” – for the background see

BARA and BBC

Since my last blog post, on Wednesday evening, I met with over 30 residents of Abbotsford Place and Street and Corso Street, together with a member of the Waste Management staff to discuss the proposed ‘mini’ recycling centres for each of the three streets.
The meeting, organised by Blackness Area Residents’ Association (BARA), arose out of residents’ concerns about the siting of these. It was clear the residents welcomed the opportunity to have these facilities, but did not want them at the locations proposed for a variety of reasons including too close to lounge windows and gardens.
I’m pleased to say that an acceptable compromise has been reached whereby the Waste Management representative is to undertake a site visit next Tuesday with two of BARA’s office-bearers to look at the viability of three alternative off-pavement sites the residents would prefer the recycling units were located at. It was agreed that they would be sited there, but only if viable in terms of lack of slope, acceptable surface, etc, but whatever the outcome of this, the unacceptable sites are ‘off the agenda’ and it was clear speaking with residents after the meeting, that they are happy with this.
You’ll recall that, just after the election, I mentioned I’d put in a complaint to the BBC about their handling of an eve-of-poll election broadcast (click on headline above to view original story). Anyway, I received their decision yesterday (pasted below). Given the assurances now given to ensure no repeat of the problem, I now consider the matter closed!
Dear Councillor Macpherson

Scotland Live, Radio Scotland, May 2 2007

I have been asked to look into your complaint about the eve of poll election feature on Scotland Live on 2 May. I’m sorry that you have been unhappy with the earlier response that you have received from the BBC, and I hope I can deal with your concerns here.

We have now had an opportunity to listen to the item in question and we have been in contact with the programme makers in Scotland. We have also reviewed the previous correspondence between you and the BBC.

You may be aware that it is the role of the ECU to investigate complaints to determine if there has been a serious breach of the standards set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines. You can find these at www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines.

The item in question was a programme made up of series of reports about the campaigning activities of the various parties contesting the Dundee West constituency in the elections to the Scottish Parliament. You complained that the BBC failed to include the Liberal Democrats in the piece and that this was clear bias, whether intentional or not.

As you know, the intention was to carry pieces from each of the main parties which would feature activists on the ground in the final run-up to polling day. The BBC had told the parties that parliamentary election candidates would not be interviewed for the piece. The parties were not told, however, that council candidates would not be interviewed either. In the event, the Liberal Democrat interviewees, including yourself, were both council candidates and the BBC decided at a very late stage that these could not be used. You are quite right, and Phil Wells has already conceded, that this led to serious imbalance in the item. This was compounded by the fact that a Conservative interviewee who was included turned out to have been a council candidate as well, though this was not realised by anyone at the BBC until the item had been broadcast.

There is no dispute that to broadcast the item in this form was a serious mistake and a serious breach of the standards set out in the BBC guidelines on broadcasting during elections. These say:

We should make, and be able to defend, our editorial decisions on the basis that they are reasonable and carefully and impartially reached. To achieve this we must ensure that:
…news judgements at election time are made within a framework of democratic debate which ensures that due weight is given to hearing the views and examining and challenging the policies of all parties.

Phil Wells, the editor of Scotland Live, has already written to you to apologise. He said that “It is our responsibility to check and in this we failed”. Had this apology not been made prior to you complaint being looked into by the ECU, this part of your complaint would certainly have been upheld. However, in the light of Phil Wells’s admission, I have to say that I consider that it has now been resolved.

You have also complained, however, that you have been given “absolutely no reassurances as to how this sort of error will be avoided in future”. We put this to the programme team, and this is the reply we received:

The programme editor spoke to everyone involved in the piece – radio reporters, the producer and the senior broadcast journalist with responsibility for planning. He reiterated the absolute importance of checking the credentials of people appearing on the programme, both when setting people up ahead of time and when meeting them on the day. This is particularly true during election time. He also spoke to the whole programme team at its weekly team meeting to drive the message home. In the future, as editor of the programme, he will monitor any e-mail or interview request which goes to a political party. This should prevent something like this happening again.

This, it seems to me, is the proper response to the errors which were made and should be sufficient to ensure that this or similar errors are not repeated. In the circumstances, I feel that the actions already taken mean that this aspect of your complaint has also been resolved. It would, plainly, have been better to have notified you at the time of what had been done, and I’m sorry that this did not happen, but I’m afraid that a procedural lapse such as this does not fall within the remit of the ECU to address as a complaint.
As your complaints would have been upheld had an apology not already been made and the actions taken not satisfied me that it was resolved, a summary of my decision will be posted on the BBC Complaints website. I will notify you when this has happened. Meanwhile, I hope you will accept my further apologies on behalf of the BBC, and my thanks for giving us the opportunity to look into it.

Yours sincerely

Fraser Steel
Head of Editorial Complaints

Media and graffiti

OK then media first! Was on the Tay Talk In this morning regarding the future administration of the City Council. The Talk In is a great programme as Ally allows everyone their say and the programme is dynamic, with the listeners deciding the content.

So … that’s today’s positive story about the media. So here’s the all too inevitable negative one!

A few days before polling day, I got a call from a BBC researcher from the ‘Scotland Live’ programme asking if Dundee Liberal Democrats would participate in an eve-of-poll feature on the Dundee West constituency; the idea was to interview local activists from each of the four parties contesting Dundee West about their experiences of the campaign. I was advised that the parliamentary candidates could not participate but any other local activist could and that, due to the need for electoral balance, if any party refused participation, the feature could not go ahead.

To be frank, their wish for an interview at 8.30am on eve-of-poll was something I’d have rather avoided. We had a huge logistical exercise involving teams in West End, Coldside and Strathmartine Wards organising the delivery of leaflets and the thought of fitting in BBC Scotland was a bit of a pain. But we agreed. Always like to be helpful!

My brother in law (Murray – candidate in Coldside Ward) and I were trailed round deliveries in Hazel Drive by a friendly lady from the BBC who asked lots of questions about the election.

At lunchtime, I listened to the programme on my mp3/fm player (while deliver leaflets for Chris Hall in Charleston!) Interviews with Labour, Conservatives, SNP … but no Liberal Democrats! So why?

It turns out that the BBC had failed to explain to us that council candidates could not participate (in addition to a bar on parliamentary candidates) and at BBC HQ they had sussed that I was a council candidate. OK, a mistake by the BBC, but in the interview with the Conservatives, they interviewed the Conservative council candidate for the West End Ward. Total and abject BBC incompetence.

Phil Wells, the BBC ‘Scotland Live’ producer, has phoned and e-mailed me an apology, but he has made it perfectly clear that the BBC attitude is not to try to redress matters, simply to apologise and move on.

I do not think this is good enough. At the very least some reassurance that BBC Scotland now had procedures in place to stop this happening again would have been nice.

I think I can genuinely say I am not a natural moan. I doubt any other member of Dundee City Council had received so much adverse media comment in the past few years, but I have always found the best way forward is to ignore it and continue to work hard for your constituents. This is not a case of complaining because you have been criticised, but I feel it is not good enough that BBC Scotland believes it can simply ignore electoral balance and think it doesn’t really matter. So, I have lodged a formal complaint. Will report back on outcome in due course!

I had two conversations with constituents today on the same subject – graffiti in the Perth Road district shopping centre. I have proposed a graffiti-specific rapid response team for the City; I think this is a sensible way forward.