STV Registers Long-term Rise in Non-network Output Versus BBC Drop, Ofcom Reveals

A policy adopted by STV to opt out of programming being shown by ITV south of the border has seen the amount of original non-network output delivered by the Scottish broadcaster increase by more than half in the last five years, a report from broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, has found.

According to the watchdog’s annual review of public service broadcasting – published yesterday and reported on allmediascotland – the number of hours of first-run originations for Scotland-only audiences rose 54 per cent from a total of 701 hours in 2006 to 1,082 in 2010.

The sharp rise contrasts against a three per cent fall by the BBC since 2006, which saw its number of hours drop from 827 hours to 799 – excluding Gaelic programming.

An STV spokeswoman today claimed the increase in hours “illustrates our commitment to Scottish production”, while BBC Scotland insisted more resources were being devoted to “high impact series” rather than being thinly spread.

According to the recently-released figures, STV enjoyed a 29 per cent jump between 2009 and last year alone, after overtaking the BBC in 2008.

The media regulator also provides a breakdown in terms of news, current affairs and ‘other’ programming on BBC Scotland and STV.

In 2006, the BBC’s programming in Scotland alone comprised 323 hours of news, 164 hours of current affairs, and 340 hours of ‘other’ types of programmes, while rivals, STV, racked up 551 hours of news, 30 hours of current affairs and 120 hours of other programmes.

By 2010, however, the figures see BBC news fall to 321 hours, other programming down 40 hours to 300 hours, but current affairs up to 178 hours.

Scottish broadcasters, STV, meanwhile, registered a massive rise in other programming to 590 hours, though current affairs remained relatively the same at 31 hours and news dipped to 461 hours.

An STV spokeswoman said: “For the past three years, STV has aired more non-network, first-run original programming than BBC Scotland, which illustrates our commitment to Scottish production.

“We aim to provide a schedule comprising a good mix of network material and home grown productions, alongside our dedicated and localised popular news service. 

“This strategy has proven successful, with our peak time audience in 2010 continuing to be on par with the ITV Network.”

However, a BBC Scotland spokesperson drew attention to the fact BBC ALBA was not included in the figures and added: “Our spend for non-network programming has been around the same level year-on-year over last few years.

“Hours have gone down slightly over the last five years as the sports rights market has become more competitive with the effect that we're now doing less live football.

“Another factor is that we have decided to put more resource into high impact series such as History of Scotland, Making Scotland's Landscapes, comedy series such as Burnistoun, Limmy's Show and Gary: Tank Commander and dramas such as The Field of Blood.

“Audience appreciation is at its highest level for Scotland-only programmes for some years so we believe this strategy is working well.”