A season of programmes on Scotland's history and culture tells of the delight the BBC takes in the celebration of Scotland. It would never do the same for England.
'The default position for the BBC when it comes to anything to do with England is not to mention it, and certainly it is not to celebrate anything English if the BBC can possibly avoid it. Its default position with Scotland on the other hand is precisely the opposite. The BBC celebrates Scotland and everything Scottish at every opportunity.' That is the CEP's considered comment on the BBC's TV series of programmes 'This is Scotland' which starts this weekend.' in which the BBC will celebrate and examine aspects of Scottish culture, art, film-making, heritage, landscape and psyche.'. (BBC Press Release) .
'A Portrait Of Scotland discusses the artists and paintings that have reflected the changing face of Scotland since the Reformation, The Fighting Scots reviews the history of Scots in the British Army. Scotland On Screen celebrates classic movies and their Scottish locations, there is a programme on Touring Scotland, another on the cult of the Munros, and Michael Portillo chairing a discussion on the possibility of Scottish independence.The season also features documentaries on the legacy of Calvinism in Scotland, on Tweed, the fabric and industry, and on Balmoral, the Royal Family's most private residence and its links to Scottish traditions.
'Can anyone imagine the BBC running anything like that for England?' asks Scilla Cullen chairman in her Autumn message to Campaign membership. 'Just imagine the BBC doing a programme, for example, on Sandringham and the Royal Family's links to the English countryside. It would not as much as enter its head to run a programme on the history of English regiments in the British Army. For the BBC, as an unspoken but governing ideology, there isn't an England. There are Brits and there are the Scots and the Welsh, but there are no English as a distinct people in the same way. Every time he is on the Wimnbledon screen, Andy Murray is a Scot. Tim Henman was always and only a Brit. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, Cardiff the capital of Wales. But never once in all my lifetime have I heard the BBC ever talk of London as the capital of England, which it is.
'For the BBC there is the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That's it. It officially organises itself into what it calls 'the Nations and the Regions', the nations being Scotland, Wales and NI and the regions being its divisions of England into such regions as the North West, the West Midlands etc which have no roots at all in England's history and culture.
'There is BBC Scotland, there is BBC Wales, there is BBC Northern Ireland. But in letter after letter from the BBC Head Office to the CEP, the firm statement is that they will not have a BBC England.
'Instead England is balkanised into a myriad of local stations: BBC Devon, BBC Manchester, BBC Lincolnshire and so on. 'England is too big to have its own BBC station like Scotland and Wales', the Head of the Dept. of 'Nations and Regions' writes to the CEP Media Unit. Yet there is a BBC World Service. Scotland, Wales and NI each has its own Trustee on the BBC Trust Board. England hasn't any. It has an Alison Hastings representing 'the regions'.
'This hostility to the idea of England as a distinct nation goes deep into the psyche of the British Establishment, of which the BBC is a major player culturally and politically,' writes Scilla Cullen. 'It regards the very idea of England as a threat to the narrow Establishment notion of Britishness, dominant but narrow. The BBC is consciously hostile. It is holding back the growth and enjoyment of Englishness, which is as much a direct consequence of the 1998 Devolution legislation as is the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. Over the last eleven years the English people have become aware of themselves again as a distinct nation, very aware that they have been deprived of self rule which has been granted to Scotland and Wales, whose MPs can still make legislation for England's internal affairs and have obtained immense benefits for their countries which are denied to England.
'The BBC will have to dragged kicking and screaming into running a season of programmes on England as a distinct nation with its own distinct culture and history. If and when that happens, which in due course it will, it will mean that after 300 years of being denied it has its own identity, the British Establishment has finally accepted the fact that the United Kingdom can change and still exist.
Mrs Scilla Cullen CEP Chairman Tel: 01438 833155