Beveridge issues call for Scotland-wide Channel 3 licence

A CHANNEL 3 licence for the whole of Scotland should be created, in replace the three-way division of the country that currently operates, with STV operating in two parts – argues well-known Scots media commentator, Robert Beveridge.

The Visiting Professor at the University of Sassari, in Sardinia, Italy, writes in today’s Scotsman newspaper of a “missed opportunity” when the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, effectively gave a ‘green light’ to the existing licensing arrangements affecting Scotland to be renewed relatively automatically in two years’ time.

While successful negotiations with broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, are still required for the licences to be renewed, were the current arrangements to be maintained, it would mean STV still serving just the Central Belt of Scotland and the north. In other words, viewers in the south of Scotland would continue to receive their news from an ITV operation headquartered in the north of England.

Says Beveridge: “[Maria] Miller has recently agreed to the potential separation 
of the Wales and West channel 3 licence region. Why should Scotland be treated differently? Why not separate the two parts of the [ITV] Border licence as a solution to concerns about public service television in the south of the country?

“Instead, she has asked the regulator Ofcom to address the needs of viewers in the south of Scotland by finding a ‘way forward with ITV plc which… addresses concerns about the quality and plurality of news provision, which are of the utmost importance’.

“What might this mean? Is ITV really going to invest in current programming for the very small audience in the Scottish Borders, given that it has already substantially reduced provision for the whole Border region? One cost-effective way would be for ITV to transmit STV news and current affairs programmes, but then why not an all-Scotland licence? Can viewers in Dumfries look forward to watching Scotland Tonight and if not, why not?

“Further, why can’t STV broadcast a southern Scotland edition of its regionalised News at Six, thus addressing the problems identified by Ofcom and acknowledged by Miller in relation to the particular value placed by Border viewers on news about their area?”

Beveridge does not address whether STV would require to bid in the open market, as it were, for an all-Scotland licence, were one to be  created.