Dave Thompson gets Hebrides: Islands on the Edge to UK-wide broadcast

The first impact of this news was a bit of a shock that this superb series had not actually been on UK-wide transmission in the first instance. This now raises questions about the calibre of the programming judgment of the BBC.

The series, with its impeccable and compelling photography, should never have been about Scotland talking to itself but about Scotland talking to the entire UK and well beyond.

If this series had been about a group of islands anywhere, it would have been very well watched. There was nothing parochial about it but the programming decision-makers seem unable to escape from the parish pump mentality.

This series told the story of a magnificent part of the world – to the world. It was made with an unlimited audience in mind. There was no reason to question that it was being offered to a wide audience – until the press release came in, alerting us to the fact Dave Thompson, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch,  has managed to get this series released to fly.

Dave Thompson, welcomes the news that, following a successful run on BBC Scotland – and his own determined intervention – the four part documentary, Hebrides: Islands on the Edge, will be broadcast across the UK from the 11th July, on BBC2 at 9pm.

Mr Thompson wrote to the BBC to make the case for the programme to be shown outwith Scotland – on the grounds of its potential positive impact on tourist numbers.

This series supports transmission anywhere on grounds of merit alone – the camera did the serious ‘talking’, engaging with the character of a very specific place whose cultures were formed by their context of land, sea, air, wildlife, seasons and seascapes.

Dave Thompson says: ‘I am delighted that, following my letter to the BBC Director General, the decision has been made to show this excellent documentary across the United Kingdom.

‘Tourism is a vital industry for the Highlands and Islands, and I am particularly pleased that the programme will be shown in early July, when it can have a positive impact on this summers tourism.’

Nigel Pope, Executive Producer of Islands on the Edge says: ‘The Hebrides series was hugely popular with the audience in Scotland – winning more than a quarter of the viewing audience.

‘I’m delighted that the wider UK audience will now get a chance to see the programmes.

‘Human beings and wild places are deeply entwined in the Islands.

‘I hope the series helps to shine a light on one of the world’s most outstanding wild places and brings some benefit to both the people and animals that live there.’

This immediately begs the question of why ‘one of the world’s outstanding wild places’ was not shown to the world of the UK at least, in the first instance.

Do we know if the series is to marketed by the BBC to overseas television stations? It has to be.

One has also to ask why this intervention was left to a politician What was the ‘national tourism agency’, VisitScotland, doing?

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8 Responses to Dave Thompson gets Hebrides: Islands on the Edge to UK-wide broadcast

  1. My understanding is – and I mentioned this at the time – that it was always the BBC’s intention to broadcast this in England, Northern Ireland ans Wales wide in July. Schedules are built up long in advance, and for it to ‘go out’ so soon after the original broadcast in Scotland suggests to me that this was always the plan.

    So either Dave Thompson is claiming more credit than is warranted, on the back of a letter to the DG. Or the BBC press department wants to look as if they’re being responsive to the pleadings of Scottish elected representatives. Whatever, it’s a good outcome, and we can celebrate that, but we should be wary of claims for credit.

    As for overseas marketing, BBC Worldwide is rarely slow in tracking down opportunities to flog stuff abroad… so I expect that work has already started.

    In many ways it is serendipitous that the BBC has made great tourism marketing material: that’s the job of VisitScotland, not our national broadcaster. Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted they did choose to make this marvellous programme. But the BBC has a duty to entertain and educate us first and foremost. So the marketing potential is for the tourism industry to exploit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

    • I saw an interview with Nigel Pope some time before the first showing on BBC Scotland and he said then that it was always the intention to show it in Scotland first, as part of BBC Scotland’s Wild Scotland season, to be followed by screening to the rest of the UK, so no-one, least of all an MSP, needed to write to the BBC’s DG and then claim credit. Still, that’s what MSPs like to do and, indeed, are quite good at doing!
      Pity about the commentary, but the camerawork is outstanding.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    • No Mairi I am afraid you are misinformed. See the Scotsman report at the time of the original letter. They asked BBC Scotland when it would go out UK wide and their answer was not sure but possibly in the autumn ie after the current tourist season, which was the whole point of the letter. Last time I checked July wasn’t in the autumn.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  2. Sounds a typical MP’s way of getting their name in the paper. Find something that is going to happen anyway and ask a question about it so you can claim that it was done because of your question.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  3. It was always the BBCs intention to broadcast this nationally. A decent enough programme marred by Ewen MacGregors boring commentary. Looking forward to BBC ALBAs version with a better Gaelic commentary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

    • Agree on the sonorous and monotonous commentary, concocting dramas where the life revealed by the camera needed no cosmetic assistance.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  4. As a recently retired, but still active on a part-time basis, ship’s agent on the Scottish West Coast, this series, when shown to the wider world, will be well received by thousands of potential/active “expedition-type” cruise ship passengers on the smaller vessels which come to the Scottish West Coast searching for bird/wildlife, marine diversity and natural history from Gigha to Fair Isle, and from the inner lochs to the Western Isles and St. Kilda, during the Spring and Autumn seasons.

    In the Summer season, these small vessels are to be found well inside the Arctic Circle in places like Longyearbyen and Spitzbergen, not to mention Greenland!

    The guests onboard are from all areas, but especially from UK, Scandinavia and North America, and the sailings, often based on Oban, or transiting with passengers, are always well-supported, and these small vessels follow themed itineraries depending on the seasons (golf, gardens, bird-watching, seabirds, marine life movements, dolphins/porpoises, whales, basking sharks, etc., with whisky tours and locally inspired menus thrown into the mix, plus much of what has been seen on the programme with its varying degrees of weather, all make for the big adventure.

    For those vessels based at Oban, there can also be a fair bit of spending by way of fuel for zodiacs, food, fish and provisions, personal spending by ships’ crews in Argos and Homebase, Tesco and the other supermarkets, marine electronic technicians and even computer repairs locally, not to mention the local overnighting in hotels of cruise ship crew members and passengers, long-term car parking, and the berthing fees paid to Argyll & Bute Council.

    Several Masters, Officers and passengers of vessels also rate EE-Usk restaurant very highly for dining, so there are many positives for the local economy.

    I thought that the photography was particularly stunning, and that the commentary was not particularly intrusive, and any participation by humans on camera, was “silent”.

    A magical series…maybe a potential spin-off to the BBC’s Springwatch series will be possible…Islandwatch???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

    • Springwatch have already been to both Mull and Islay, so I suspect the English-based PTB may feel that the area has had its fair share.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

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