Digital Britain: More

STV has been reassured that it can bid for a pilot news scheme scheduled to operate in Scotland next year.

Although STV had no doubts about its eligibility – following UK government proposals announced on Tuesday and reported on allmediascotland yesterday (here) about the future of ‘digital Britain’ – on closer inspection of the recommendations, there was ambiguity about who could run the pilot.

Scotland, Wales and an as yet unnamed English region have been chosen as hosts of the pilots, which will run from next year, for two years. Consortia of news providers – not exclusively TV stations – can bid to run the pilots, which would receive government funding in recognition of the fact that news provision on commercial TV is becoming increasingly unviable, financially, as more and more TV channels chase the same (or less) advertising revenue.

But paragraph 79, chapter five, says: “….. the Government is minded to mount three pilots……without the current Channel 3 incumbent licensee.” Read it here.

However, yesterday, a spokesperson at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport confirmed to allmediascotland that STV is eligible, while accepting the paragraph was not as well written as it might have been.

Any relief for STV will have been on top of that enjoyed on Tuesday when the ‘digital Britain’ report by Lord Stephen Carter – minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting at Westminster (who happens to be speaking in Edinburgh today) – recommended that the production arm of STV be categorised an ‘indie’, thus allowing it to compete for TV commissions available as part of independent production quotas applying to the BBC, Channel 4, ITV plc and five.

For STV it was the successful culmination to a long campaign for recognition. It said: “We are pleased that the Government supports the case for granting STV Productions the same benefits as independent producers, which would certainly help fast-track the development of a vibrant creative cluster in Scotland and create jobs in a key growth sector. We will participate fully in the forthcoming legislative consultation and look forward to a speedy implementation.”

But last night’s Newsnight Scotland programme on BBC Two (watch it here) was devoted almost entirely to discussing the relative lack of any mention in Carter’s report about last year’s recommendation by the Scottish Broadcasting Commission – set up the previous year by First Minister, Alex Salmond, to look at Scottish broadcasting – that there be a digital TV channel set up dedicated to showing and commissioning Scottish content – the Scottish Digital Network – at an estimated cost of £75 million per year.

The programme also featured a robust defence of BBC Scotland’s flagship Reporting Scotland, by BBC Director-General, Mark Thompson. Appearing yesterday in front of the Education, Lifelong Learning and Culture Committee at the Scottish Parliament, he was responding to a comment by SNP MSP, Kenneth Gibson, that the news show can sometimes include “cat-up-a-tree-type-stories”.

Thompson replied: “I think Reporting Scotland is actually really strong. I feel especially in recent years and especially with the devolved politics of Scotland to report on I think it has grown in stature.”

Yesterday, Thompson (pictured left) met with STV chief executive, Rob Woodward, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will see the BBC and STV explore the sharing of pictures, facilities, training, technology and archive programmes (reported on allmediascotland.com on Tuesday, here).

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