The publishers of The Herald, The Scotsman and the Press and Journal newspapers have struck a deal with an independent TV production company in the hope of securing the right to operate a publicly-funded Scottish TV news programme from later this year on Channel 3.
The Herald & Times Group, Johnston Press and DC Thomson have teamed up with Tinopolis,producer of the BBC’s Question Time programmes, for the news programme, which is to be run, initially, as a pilot.
They are up against at least one other bid – involving STV, Bauer Media and ITN – with an alliance comprising Trinity Mirror and Macmillan Media (which produces the Scottish news opt-out on TV morning programme, GMTV) hoping to operate a TV news service for the south of Scotland even though the south of Scotland is not being specifically offered as a pilot option.
On Wednesday, prospective operators of the Scotland pilot had to register notes of interest. The UK government is proposing publicly-funded news on Channel 3 – on a pilot basis and to be bid for – in Scotland, Wales and the north east of England. The identity of the winning so-called Independently-Financed News Consortia (IFNC) is expected mid-March.
Says the consortium: “[We] will propose fresh and creative solutions for Scottish and local news on television, the internet and other digital platforms to meet consumer needs. The group has an unrivalled newsgathering capability in Scotland with some 1000 editorial staff in news bureaux across the nation.
“The alliance publishes an enormous range of newspapers including dailies such as The Courier, The Scotsman, The Herald, The Press and Journal, weekly titles such as the Stornoway Gazette, the Southern Reporter and the Aberdeen Citizen as well as The Sunday Post, Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday.
“The consortium has an extensive online presence in Scotland with leading sites such as scotsman.com and heraldscotland.com.”
Tinopolis’s Mentorn Media subsidiary has extensive experience in television and new media news, producing programmes such as Panorama and Traffic Cops for BBC One, and Dispatches and Cutting Edge for Channel 4.
Mentorn Scotland this year becomes a major BBC independent supplier as production base for Question Time and BBC One’s Sunday morning discussion show, The Big Questions, as well as several other network programmes. Tinopolis is also S4C’s largest programme supplier and produces interactive media for a range of UK and international clients.
The bid is being supported and advised by a former chair and chief executive of ITN, Mark Wood.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, at Westminster, is seeking bids for government-funded pilot IFNCs to provide local news on digital platforms and on Channel 3, which the incumbent providers – for instance, STV in central and north of Scotland (not the south, which is served from Tyne Tees, headquartered near Newcastle) – say they can no longer afford to provide, as advertising revenue declines.
Says David Thomson, joint managing director for newspapers at DC Thomson: “We are delighted to be working with such a strong consortium. Local news provision is vital to our community. We believe that, along with our consortium partners, we are well placed to build on the quality and quantity of news that we already provide, by adding innovative multiplatform news to the service we offer our readers”
Herald & Times Group managing director Tim Blott added: “This unprecedented alliance between three major Scottish media groups and an outstanding broadcast partner promises the people of Scotland an unrivalled depth and range of television and web news about our country.”
Continued Johnston Press chief executive, John Fry: “This news consortium has tremendous strength in depth in communities throughout Scotland and I am confident that it can provide consumers with a significantly different and enhanced service.”
The grouping is calling itself the Scottish News Consortium.
Said Tinopolis chair, Ron Jones: “The Scottish News Consortium consists of the three strongest newspaper groups in Scotland, and the most distinguished producer of network television journalism. Together, we are confident we can provide Scotland with the news services it needs and deserves.”
Mark Wood said: “This consortium represents an unprecedented partnership between historically competing news organisations, and promises to deliver a breadth and vibrancy in national and local coverage no-one can match.
“This will transform and invigorate the whole nature of Scottish television news while the parallel use of web platforms will engage and involve viewers in a way which has never been ventured on this scale.
“This will be an excellent model for the rest of the UK – and for many other countries and regions beyond it.”
DC Thomson & Co Ltd was founded in 1905 and produces more than 100 million newspapers and magazines annually. The company publishes a number of newspaper titles, including The Press and Journal, Evening Express, The Courier & Advertiser, Evening Telegraph and The Sunday Post.
DC Thomson also publishes a number of magazines, children’s publications and owns two book publishing companies. It is deeply involved in internet technology through its wholly-owned subsidiary Brightsolid (formerly Scotland Online), a leading UK independent provider of IT business services to large public and private sector organisations.
The Herald & Times Group publishes The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times and news web sites heraldscotland.com and eveningtimes.co.uk. It also publishes niche magazines and owns the S1 internet advertising company and a major printing plant.
The Glasgow-based group was founded in 1783 and has some 600 staff.
Johnston Press is the second-largest regional press company in the UK, employing over 6000 staff and with a turnover in 2008 of £532 million. The company was founded in Falkirk in 1767, is headquartered in Edinburgh and boasts an extensive portfolio of newspapers and associated websites, including The Scotsman and scotsman.com.
Employing more than 400 people in London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Oxford and Llanelli, the Tinopolis Group produces broadcast television programming for all major domestic channels. Subsidiaries include Mentorn Media; leading sports producer Sunset + Vine; BAFTA-winning drama producers, Daybreak Pictures; specialist factual producers, Pioneer Productions; and the leading TV training company Video Arts, originally founded by John Cleese.
Tinopolis Interactive specialises in new media products for education, training, corporate development and entertainment.
Mentorn Scotland has been producing TV programmes for almost a decade, with titles such as Clans (BBC Scotland), The Last Word (BBC Scotland) and Traffic Cops (BBC One). Mentorn has produced Question Time for the BBC for 11 years from more than 200 locations across the UK, including Scottish venues in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fort William, Perth, Dunfermline, Aberdeen, Dundee and the Shetland Isles.