TV viewers in the south of Scotland who currently receive their local news on Channel 3 from ITV Border rather than STV are to receive a more dedicated service, following an announcement by the broadcasting regulators, Ofcom.
As a pre-requesite to allowing ITV to renew its ten-year licence to broadcast local news in the ITV Border area which straddles both Scotland and England, the Scotland element of the service will require to be upped. ITV Border has its news operation headquartered in Gateshead.
Says an Ofcom media release: “In Scotland, Ofcom is requiring enhanced coverage of Scottish affairs in the area covered by ITV’s Border licence that lies in Scotland to better serve viewers.
“In addition to retaining a full 30 minutes of weekday early evening news relevant to the region, Ofcom will require a further weekly 90 minutes of regional programming to be scheduled for viewing in the Scottish part of the Border region. That programming may be shared with the other Channel 3 licensees in Scotland.
“ITV must now provide separate transmissions for the two parts of the Border region, so that viewers in England can continue to see network programming.”
STV – which operates the licences for Central and North Scotland – is to have its ten-year licence renewed on the same broadcasting obligations terms as currently.
A spokesperson for STV told allmediascotland: “Today’s announcement from Ofcom is a welcome milestone in the process as we continue to work towards securing a ten-year licence renewal.
“Further to Ofcom’s decision to revise regional programming obligations for the Border region, we are happy to enter into discussions with ITV about our popular current affairs programme, Scotland Tonight, if it is determined that the best option is a commercial agreement between STV and ITV.”
All the Channel 3 licences throughout the UK are due for renewal at the end of next year. For the remainder of England, where ITV operates all the licences, permission has been granted by Ofcom to reduce the amount of local news transmitted. In Wales, ITV’s licence obligations are to remain broadly unchanged and in Northern Ireland – where has its own operator, UTV – an application to reduce local news coverage has been rejected.
Says a Scottish Conservatives media release, senior Scottish Conservative politicians in the south of Scotland plan to meet with ITV bosses in coming weeks to see how to best take forward the plans.
David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, is quoted as saying: “All the independent evidence and my own experience and discussion with constituents has always shown that people living in our region place a lot of value on dedicated local coverage in news programming.
“That is why I am welcoming this decision which will see the return of the sort of dedicated Lookaround news programme people know and love.
“This announcement gives ITV Border the flexibility to enhance the coverage they currently offer local people in the south of Scotland and I am sure they will take the opportunity to do so.”
Scottish Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, John Lamont, is also quoted, this time saying: “It is very clear from the many letters and emails I have had from constituents on this issue that they wanted to see a return to a news service more focussed on our area.
“When the decision was taken to merge Border TV with the Tyne Tees region, many people were hugely upset as it meant we lost a lot of news service tailored to our area.
“Ofcom’s own research shows viewers in the Borders are not interested in news from other areas, but instead want more news and information about what is going on in their local area.”