Atkinson appointed to panel choosing Scottish TV news pilot provider

A FORMER deputy head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland is to help choose who will run a publicly-funded TV news programme on Channel three in Scotland – starting later this year, and initially as a pilot.

Val Atkinson is to be part of a six-strong panel that will adjudicate on bids to run the service in Scotland, with a prospective consortium comprising STV, Bauer Media and ITN up against another consisting the Herald & Times Group, DC Thomson, Johnston Press and Tinopolis.

Meanwhile, Trinity Mirror and Macmillan Media are jointly hoping they might be allowed to operate a TV news service in the south of Scotland although, technically, no such pilot for the south of Scotland alone has been identified.

Up for grabs is public cash to run pilots in Wales, the north-east of England (including the south of Scotland, which is currently served by the Tyne Tees division of ITV) and Scotland.

The panel – says the Department for Culture, Media and Sport at Westminser – is to be led by Richard Hooper, former deputy chair of broadcasting regulators, Ofcom.

He is joined by – as well as Atkinson – former Birmingham Post editor, Marc Reeves; Fru Hazlitt, former chief executive of GCap Media; Glyn Mathias, former ITN political editor and inaugural member of the Electoral Commission; and William Perrin, founder of Talk About Local and a former policy advisor to ex Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Prospective operators of the Scotland pilot had to register notes of interest by the end of last month. The identity of the winning so-called Independently-Financed News Consortia (IFNC) is expected mid-March.

The publicly-funded pilots are being created because it has been recognised that the incumbent providers of regional news on Channel 3 – for instance, STV in central and north of Scotland – can no longer afford to do so, as advertising revenue declines.