More Network Opt-outs Promised by stv

stv is planning to increase this year the number of times it opts out of the ITV network – when it broadcasts one of its own programmes instead of a network one.

And, says Bobby Hain, director of broadcast services and regulatory affairs at stv group plc, viewers can also expect “higher quality” programmes being made by stv.

Hain was speaking last night in Edinburgh, to the RSA Fellows’ Media and Creative Industries Special Interest Group. He said: “stv has developed its own vision of where we are aiming for in the digital age. Being a public service broadcaster is part our DNA and we are committed to providing relevant content for Scotland as part of a strong Channel 3 network.

“In fact, in 2009 we will opt out more from the ITV Network and will be announcing a raft of new commissions in the near future. These programmes will connect more strongly with Scottish audiences and we are confident that they will achieve higher audience shares in Scotland than the network content they displace.”

He added: “Notwithstanding the financial challenges of continuing the same levels of news and current affairs, we are committed to offering a strong alternative to the BBC.”

He added: “As a business, stv has a new lease of life; our board, chairman, chief executive and many of our shareholders came fresh to the business in 2007 and the focus is very much on a confident and creative future.

“We have three main business units: Content, led by Alan Clements, whose focus is securing new commissions from other broadcasters and increasing the level and quality of our own output. Secondly, Broadcasting, which remains the engine at the core of the business; and, thirdly, our Ventures arm, creating new digital platforms and launching new businesses such as an online classified initiative which starts soon with”

Last year, stv produced over 700 hours of original content in Scotland.

Last month, broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, declined to recommend to government that stv should be subsumed into an UK-wide ITV plc, which stv group plc is not a part. It also suggested a local network of outlets provide news and current affairs programmes, funded by government.

Added Hain: “Ofcom recognises the challenges facing the main public service broadcasters and has suggested ways to ensure the most highly valued content – such as news, in Scotland and the other devolved nations and the English regions, remains. They have suggested a new form of public intervention whereby regional news would be funded through contestable public funding, awarded through local panels.

“This would mean that the news on stv would be subsidised through public funds, either awarded directly to us, should we be successful in applying, or if not, by whichever news provider was appointed. Either way, this would reduce the