STV’s proposed ‘Scottish Six’ programme: Rob Woodward’s speech

STV is hoping to be chosen to run a pilot channel three news programme, to be funded by the government and broadcast in Scotland from next year. On Friday, STV chief executive, Rob Woodward, unveiled a vision of an hour-long news programme, from 6pm, comprising local, UK and international news, reported via a Scottish perspective – aka The Scottish Six. At the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention, he delivered this speech…

STV is pitching to launch a new era for news coverage in Scotland.

We totally support the potential use of public funds, however, in return it’s vital that we innovate, enhance, and create a step change in the provision of Scottish news and provide a stronger form of plurality in Scottish broadcasting. What will follow is a proposal for our vision for the future of news in Scotland.

What we are pitching is new, exciting, never been done before, and we believe presents an exciting response for Scottish news in the 21st century and for Scotland as a devolved nation.

At the heart of our offering lies a significant addition to consumer choice with coverage that is more relevant for viewers.
Our vision contextualises international and national stories complimented by adding an additional layer of localness through the already planned launch of some 300 micro-sites covering cities, towns and communities throughout the country.

Our vision adds two new dimensions to STV’s existing national news coverage. Firstly, we will present a Scottish perspective on international and UK stories in the same way as Scotland’s indigenous press.

Secondly, we propose to add more local coverage building on the success of our existing micro-regions in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee.

We will do this within a new, one-hour integrated news programme at 6pm incorporating four different types of news.

International and UK national stories provided by ITN combined with Scottish and localised coverage provided through STV’s newsgathering and other partners.

This approach frees us from the outdated and artificial notion of ‘regional news’ in Scotland.

The new programme will highlight the best mix of stories with an appropriate context for the audience. It will remove the duplication that currently happens where a big Scottish story features on both the STV news at 6pm and the ITV news at 6.30pm.

It will also provide a better balance to viewers for news specific to England and Wales.

This is early stage thinking but we are confident that this can be delivered using existing editorial processes and incorporating the possibilities afforded by new technology. The objective is to create a high quality, relevant bulletin that is unique; continues to serve the two million Scots that watch STV news every week; and engages new viewers both on TV and through our digital platform.

What we are proposing represents a step change in news provision. It reflects Scotland in a new way. It would be the only bulletin that properly contextualises all types of news stories for the audience. With our partner ITN we have the credentials to deliver this.

We already break and cover the UK and international stories, often through breaking into our schedule to bring extended coverage of landmark Scottish events:

* Michael Martin’s resignation
* Glasgow Airport terrorist attack
* Tobin
* Megrahi’s release

We have a highly-efficient news gathering network with 120 editorial and resources staff based in five centres across Scotland, as well as dedicated political units at both Holyrood and Westminster.

We provide first line cover for ITN in Scotland.

We have created a world-class, flash-based video site for streaming content.

We have invested in new technology employing camera phones, 3G broadband and portable satellite alongside traditional news gathering.

We produce over 450 hours of news each year.

There is already a strong appetite for our news, as reflected in our ratings.

To summarise:

This approach represents a big idea in order to maximise the public value of applying public funding.

It would deliver an enhanced service for Scotland by offering a choice not currently available.

It would provide more relevant coverage properly contextualising all news coverage.

It would add a new layer of localness, building on our proven local model.

The future should be about developing; adapting; and growing; not propping up existing services.

Funding is essential to provide plurality and STV remains dedicated to providing a high level of public service broadcasting.

This proposal moves the game on.

We embrace the power of partnerships. For example, we have a wide ranging Memorandum of Understanding with the BBC and are currently increasing the use of pooled coverage. We are open to engaging with other potential partners.

In short, we should seize this one off opportunity provided through the introduction of public funding to re-define STV’s news provision for a digital Scotland.