Ofcom to be tasked with picking Scottish news pilot provider

THE broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, have been handed the responsibility of choosing who is to run a publicly-funded TV news pilot in Scotland, on Channel three, from next year.

The proposal appears in the Queen’s Speech which today, among other things, promised legislation concerning Britain’s digital future, including widespread broadband provision and illegal downloading of copyrighted material.

It is understood the details of what exactly the Digital Economy Bill comprise are to be announced tomorrow at Westminster and published on Friday.

On the website of the Prime Minister’s office, it is clearly stated that one of the targets of the Bill is to “support the plurality of independent and high-quality news in the nations, locally and in the regions – giving Ofcom powers to appoint and fund Independently-Funded News Consortia”.

Already, two prospective operators of the Scottish pilot – and the public cash that will go with it – have declared their intention to bid for it: the current Channel threee licence holder, STV, and a consortium of newspaper publishers: Johnston Press (publisher of The Scotsman), Newsquest (The Herald) and DC Thomson (Press & Journal).

There are plans too for pilots in Wales and an as yet unnamed English region.

The Guardian describes the Bill as rather ‘anaemic’. As well as a clampdown on unlawful online file-sharing and power being given to Ofcom over the provision of regional news on ITV, the Bill also includes a push for the switchover to digital radio in 2015 and tougher laws to stop children getting hold of violent video games.

It will also include a simplification of the UK’s complex copyright laws, making it easier for people to use images on the internet without having to get permission.

The remit of Channel 4 will also be updated so that it includes the provision of public service content on all media platforms, including the web.