STV join with ITN and Bauer in bid to operate news pilot

STV has teamed up with ITN and Bauer Media in a bid to be chosen as the operators of a publicly-funded news service on Channel three in Scotland.

The consortium – which involves Bauer’s various radio stations in Scotland, including Radio Clyde, Northsound and Radio Forth – takes forward STV’s long known-about ambition to run what initially would be a pilot project, starting next year.

STV currently is the Channel three news provider for central and the north of Scotland.

The UK government is hoping to have three news pilots operating, courtesy of public cash and to be bid for by news consortia, by the middle of next year: in Scotland, Wales and the north east of England.

They are being set up in recognition of the fact that existing providers, such as STV in central and north Scotland, are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain their output, but that an alternative source of news is needed to that provided by the BBC. Advertising revenue that a TV station such as STV could once rely upon is now being lured away by an ever-increasing number of rival TV channels.

Despite there being no specific invite to run a publicly-funded pilot only in the south of Scotland, the publishers of the Daily Record newspaper – newspaper group, Trinity Mirror – yesterday announced it was hoping to win the right to operate a publicly-funded news service for that part of the country, in association with Macmillan Media, which produces the Scottish news opt-outs on morning television programme, GMTV.

The next stage in the process begins in the middle of next month, when ‘qualified bidders’ are invited to engage in a dialogue with DCMS about their news programme proposals. The final tenders have to be submitted by early March, with an announcement of the preferred bidder for the Scottish and other two pilots in mid-March.

The STV/ITN/Bauer consortium is calling itself the ‘Scottish News Network’. ITN produces news bulletins for both ITV and Channel 4 and has been operating for 55 years as an alternative news source to the BBC.

Says a statement issued a few minutes ago by the consortium: “The partner organisations forming the consortium have universal distribution within their respective licence areas and reach on average 98 per cent of the Scottish audience every week. The vast scale of their reach and scale would ensure true plurality aside from the BBC and consumer choice of news provision in Scotland.”

Said Rob Woodward, chief executive of STV Group plc: “As the current provider of television news on the Channel three Network in Scotland, we believe that our track record in production and innovation, our strong ratings for our news service, combined with the additional expertise from ITN and Bauer will result in a compelling and exciting proposition.

“We are delighted to launch this strategic partnership with these highly regarded, complementary media organisations. Our consortium will create a wide-reaching new delivery model, helping to ensure the continuation of a well-funded, comprehensive and high quality news service on Channel three in Scotland.”

Added John Hardie, chief executive Officer of ITN: “We’re proud to be working on this unique pilot with partners who have a rich journalistic heritage in the nation. ITN’s experience and technological capabilities mean that together we will offer the most comprehensive independent news service Scotland has ever enjoyed.”

Continued Graham Bryce, managing director for Bauer Radio Scotland: “As Scotland’s number one commercial radio operator, Bauer Media reaches around 1.7 million people on air and on line every week with must have news, sport and entertainment. The expertise of our award-winning local reporters and sports journalists is reflected in the calibre and extent of our existing coverage.

“Harnessing our existing strength as a trusted news source and coming together with leading TV broadcasters STV and ITN to bid for the IFNC [Independently-Funded News Consortia] news pilot scheme will enable us all to develop an innovative, multi-platform approach to news gathering, production and broadcast in Scotland that I have no doubt will significantly benefit listeners and viewers across the country.”

The only other proposed consortium that has gone public on its hopes of operating the Scotland news pilot is one comprising newspaper publishers, Newsquest (publishers of The Herald), Johnston Press (publishers of The Scotsman) and DC Thomson (publishers of the Press and Journal).