Ofcom Announces its Final PSB Recommendations

The broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, have this morning suggested that a network of local news providers – including local television, as well as radio and online – should be considered as an alternative model of providing news in Scotland to that proposed by a recent Scottish Government commission into the future of broadcasting.

The Scottish Broadcasting Commission’s own recommendation was a dedicated digital TV and online service, transmitting high-quality Scottish content and providing, when it comes to news, something different to the BBC’s reporting.

Ofcom was providing this morning its final recommendations on public service broadcasting, for the Westminster government to consider enshrining in legislation.

Says Ofcom: “The Scottish Broadcasting Commission has proposed the establishment of a Scottish Digital Network (SDN). SDN would provide news and other programmes via traditional TV and online methods. Responses to our consultation were in favour of this new network, alongside stv.

“Ofcom believes that there might be an alternative model for a SDN whereby the network would be a competitive fund which would support a series of inter-connected Scotland-wide television, local television, online and radio content.

“If resources and competing priorities allow, Ofcom believes that the Scottish Parliament and the UK Government should give further consideration to all of these options and funding methods in order to decide what’s best for Scottish viewers.”

Meanwhile, it also revealed that the BBC has offered to share its news infrastructure and pictures with Channel 3 licensees. It says: “This represents an important development. Ofcom will consider whether this raises editorial or competition issues and how these partnerships will ensure real choice in the long-term provision of news in Scotland.”

Another recommendation – that the BBC should not have its funding from the licence fee ‘top-sliced’ to pay for other people’s public service broadcasting – means the Scottish Digital Network really has only the Scottish Government and Westminster to turn to , to make it a reality. SBC chair, Blair Jenkins, has previously stated that Westminster support ought to be possible given the income it’s making from the sale of digital ‘spectrum’.

As widely anticipated, Ofcom has not budged from an interim recommendation last year that ITV plc (which stv is not a part) reduces its regional news output, as part of a cost-cutting exercise, including subsuming the Border Television news operation into a wider geographical provision, based in Newcastle. But also, as previously recommended, viewers in the south of Scotland will be partly recompensed by two local opt-outs, at 6pm and 10.30pm.

The regulator has also not shifted in its interim recommendation of last year that stv be allowed to reduce its non-news and daytime news bulletins obligations.

A huge relief for stv, Ofcom has declined to recommend a single ITV operator for