Survey finds south of Scotland TV viewers wishing for more local Channel 3 news service

TV viewers in the south of Scotland would rather they received a more local Channel 3 news service – in preference to the Newcastle-based one they currently have – according to research published today by broadcasting regulators, Ofcom.

The findings come a day after the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport intimated that STV is likely to have its two licences renewed until 2024, following their expiry in two years’ time; pending successful negotiations with Ofcom.

They also confirm what campaigners for a localised Channel 3 news service have long been saying, including local Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale MP, David Mundell, who – in a media release issued by the Scottish Conservatives – interpreted yesterday’s announcement by the Culture Secretary as an opportunity for ITV to break up its Tyne Tees & Border operation into two.

STV operates in the Central Belt in Scotland and also in the north. Viewers in the south have their regional, Channel 3 news delivered from Newcastle upon Tyne and taking in the North-east of England as well as the south of Scotland.

Says the study – which followed ‘fieldwork’ in September in Galashiels, Penrith, Dumfries and Stranraer – viewers would rather have the ‘news footprint’ smaller so it increased the chances of more relevant news being broadcast.

Says Wikipedia: “Border Television was taken over by Granada plc in 2001, and the company was renamed ITV Border in 2004. ITV Border merged with ITV Tyne Tees on Wednesday, 25 February 2009, to form a non-franchise region known as ITV Tyne Tees & Border.”

The findings will, says a spokesperson for Ofcom, “will be a factor we will take into account as we develop proposals for licence obligations in the next licence period”.

In a report published in May and delivered to the former Culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Ofcom said: “It seems to us that three possible options could meet the aspirations of viewers in the south of Scotland for coverage of both regional and national matters:

” • A dedicated regional service for viewers in the south of Scotland, supplemented with coverage of national Scottish issues. Under this scenario, we would anticipate that viewers in the English Border region would continue to receive the existing Border/Tyne Tees service; or

“• An amendment to regional obligations in the Border region (either as a whole or only for viewers in the south of Scotland) to ensure Border’s Scottish viewers received a level of news content consistent with obligations in northern and central Scotland; or

“• Auctioning a new all-Scotland licence in place of the existing licences held by STV and the area of southern Scotland currently covered by the Border licence.”

Mundell is quoted, as saying:  “I very much welcome [yesterday’s] announcement, which means that ITV will retain the license for the South of Scotland and Cumbria and must move to create a distinct new service for these areas and ensure that viewers in our part of Scotland receive an appropriate amount of Scottish content.”