Scottish Media Group

Until the early 1990s, Scottish Media Group (SMG) was primarily viewed as a television broadcaster which developed and sold programmes both in the UK and abroad.

However, since 1996 – when it bought Grampian, the ITV franchise which serves Northern Ireland – the group has diversified its business by heavily investing in publishing, satellite television and franchising.

The expansion reached a climax this year as the company branched out further by acquiring a number of advertising firms, including Primesight, Pearl & Dean and Baillie Advertising.

Most recently, SMG paid out £8m for a 37.4 per cent stake in Heart of the Midlothian Football Club, joining the ranks of media companies like British Sky Broadcasting, which last month invested millions in Leeds Sporting, owners of Leeds United Football Club.

The group’s growth has brought a series of changes with it, not least in the legal department, which is undergoing a major restructure.

Dawn Davidson, head of legal and company secretary, says: “In a very short space of time we have gone from being a one strand channel three company to having a range of things that we are involved in.”

The reorganisation means that three of the group’s in-house lawyers will now concentrate solely on RMG’s television division.

Commenting on the change, Davidson says that pure broadcasting and programme production have been amalgamated.

“We decided that the department is such a heavy user of specific skills and accountancy budgeting skills that we are putting a dedicated team of lawyers and accountants into the television business,” she says.

“When you bolt on businesses to the existing set-up you have to stand back and say this is not the right set-up for the changed entity.”

The changes to the division mean the company is now looking to recruit a lawyer to head the television group.

Davidson says: “The people involved can continue to specialise in what is a very specialist field and they will not have their eyes taken off the ball by a court writ coming in because someone did not like a newspaper article.”

Davidson and one other in-house lawyer will advise the rest of the group.

Although Davidson may act on very large television deals, her role will continue to centre around the corporate side of the business, including dealings with the London Stock Exchange and future acquisitions. Freshfields and Dundas & Wilson CS have advised on corporate matters in the past.

But while Davidson estimates that 95 per cent of television work is handled in-house, she says that in terms of the group’s newspaper business, which includes The Herald and Evening Times, only 30 per cent of the legal work is handled internally.

“The reason for that is that Levy & McRae comes in every night for two hours and reads the potentially contentious stories before they go to print. That is quite a large proportion of the legal work for newspapers.”

The legal department also houses a compliance officer who makes sure the programmes conform to the guidelines set out by the Advertising Standards Authority and the Independent Television Committee.

“They have guidelines on what you may show or what you may advertise before the watershed. She [the compliance officer] views every programme from that point of view.”

However, Davidson says: “There are some times when it gets a bit close to the bone and she wants to have an external lawyer come in and that is when we would use Levy & McRae – they give us an extra bit of oomph.”

Dawn Davidson
Head of legal and company secretary
Scottish Media Group

Organisation Scottish Media Group
Sector Media and photography
FTSE 250 ranking 154
Market capitalisation £559m
Employees 2,000
Legal function Four lawyers
Head of legal Dawn Davidson, company secretary
Reporting to Gary Hughes, group finance director
Main location for lawyers Glasgow
Main law firm Freshfields (corporate), Dundas & Wilson CS (Scottish-based corporate), Levy & McRae (media), Semple Fraser WS (property)