No joy for Border news campaigners

HOPES that ITV might scrap plans it had to merge the news operation at Border Television with its counterpart at Tyne Tees, based in Newcastle, appear to have been dashed.

ITV, which owns most of the ITV regions in the UK, but not Scotland’s stv, had wanted to merge its 17 regional news bulletins into nine, as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise.

But, after six months of consultation, it returned yesterday with a revised plan to create 18 sub-regions providing six minutes of content within its regional 6pm news programme and nine minutes after News at Ten.

And Scottish Borders, along with Dumfries and Galloway, has been identified as one of the sub-regions, meaning it is still part of the original, wider North of England/South of Scotland region.

The revised plans have still to be approved by broadcasting regulators, Ofcom.

Says local South of Scotland MSP, Alasdair Morgan: for Border Television viewers, the revised plan is no better than the original.

He said: “These plans frankly confirm my worst fears over the future of regional broadcasting as far as the South of Scotland is concerned. Clearly, ITV has a different definition of a region than I have. I would consider Dumfries and Galloway to be a region; ITV lumps D&G, the Borders, Cumbria and the whole Tyne-Tees broadcasting area centred on Newcastle in together and considers that to be a region.

“There can be no question that the time allocated for local news stories will decrease dramatically. The first priority for around 24 minutes out of every half hour will be regional news from somewhere in the vast new ‘super-region’ ITV has created – clearly most of this will usually be focused on the big population area around Newcastle and perhaps occasionally on Carlisle; then for the remaining six minutes we will get ‘sub-regional’ news, which could be from anywhere in the vast area of the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

“This is clearly a significant deterioration in the standard of news coverage as far as Dumfries and Galloway is concerned. We might as well abandon any hope of there being any significant reporting of local news in this region, other than major crises, if these proposals go ahead.

“I think that many people will be of the opinion that, if we stand to lose so much anyway, we would be better off in the stv region. The amount of truly local news coverage might very well not be any better, but we would at least receive ‘regional’ news from the same country.

“These proposals have to go back before Ofcom and I certainly intend to make representations against them. I would urge everyone else who has concerns about this issue to write to Ofcom.”