Highlands and Islands local TV dream takes a step closer

THE chances of local television stations operating in the Highlands and Islands took a step closer with the expected setting up of a working group to explore the issues involved.

It follows a meeting yesterday of, among others, over half a dozen independent TV production companies from the region, at the invitation of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition and the Edinburgh-based Institute of Local Television.

But the best laid plans of the meeting were slightly scuppered by newly-appointed Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, becoming a father last week and therefore unavailable to make a much-anticipated keynote speech about the future of broadcasting under the new Westminster government.

The meeting had been expecting to hear about Hunt’s plans for local television, plus the future of the broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, and whether Scotland would still be home to a publicly-funded pilot scheme which had chosen, before the General Election, a consortium, including the publishers of The Scotsman and The Herald newspapers, as the preferred bidder to deliver news instead of STV.

The lack of a speech meant a hasty re-drawing of the running order, as speakers – such as The Herald’s Tom Thomson – expected to be reacting to Hunt’s speech felt it would be prudent to ‘hold fire’.

Says Dave Rushton, the director of the Institute of Local Television: “There was some last-minute juggling of the programme but the meeting was still really useful, in that it looks likely a Highlands and Islands working group will get off the ground, to explore the provision of local television in the area, to join those already operating in the south of Scotland and in Fife/Tayside.”