Scotland to host pilot news provider scheme, as part of Digital Britain proposals

STV has volunteered to play host to one of three pilot schemes in the UK that could see it deliver news in partnership with other organisations, such as a newspaper group, courtesy of funding from the government.

The pilot scheme was announced yesterday by the UK government as it seeks to develop digital communications technology in Britain, including faster broadband speeds and all national radio stations no longer broadcasting on analogue wavelengths by within six years.

The initiative involves Scotland rather than STV, but with STV hoping it is chosen as the pilot provider. The move is a recognition that commercial TV is finding it ever harder to provide a news service – as an alternative to BBC news – because of diminishing advertising revenue, caused mainly by the increased number of TV channels now in the marketplace.

The government’s announcement follows a report, ‘Digital Britain’, by Lord Stephen Carter, minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting at Westminster.

The pilots would be up and running from next year, funded for two years with money not spent on overseeing the on-going switchover from analogue TV to digital – for instance, money left in the budget to help OAPs with the transition.

Assuming the pilots were to become more permanently adopted, the plan is they would be funded – from 2012 – from the BBC budget: ‘top-slicing’.

From 2012, there would be open competition for the right to provide news on commercial TV in Scotland.

Said STV: “We are delighted that Scotland has been selected to run one of the three pilot channel 3 news services in the UK.

“Assuming adequate funding is provided this will enable our viewers to continue to enjoy STV’s Scottish news and provide strong competition to the BBC.

“Earlier this year, STV volunteered to run a ground-breaking news pilot in Scotland, which would see us sharing our news content with other commercial news organisations, and on the back of this announcement, we are hopeful that funding will be made available for such initiatives from 2010.”

Read the report, here.