Scottish channel plans further outlined

THE chief executive of stv owners, SMG, has further outlined plans to start up a digital TV channel dedicated entirely to Scottish TV programmes.

Rob Woodward has already shared his ideas with the Scottish Broadcasting Commission – looking into the future of Scottish TV – and explained them again yesterday, this time to the British Press Guild, in London.

‘The Scottish Channel’ would run in parallel with stv and would comprise both archive and news and current affairs. It might even become home to various city-based news opt-outs – in much the same way as stv’s flagship news programme, Scotland Today, currently splits briefly along an east-west divide.

The channel would, for instance, allow for longer, more in-depth coverage of a story than would be possible on Scotland Today. Such a commitment would also help SMG satisfy any public broadcasting obligations set by broadcasting regulators, Ofcom.

That a channel such as stv has to fulfil any public service broadcasting requirements at all is because it has access to those people whose TV sets are only analogue, not digital, and that it features high up the programme menu on digital TVs.

But digital channels don’t have a PSB requirement to fulfil like stv’s of 5.5 hours per week dedicated to news and four hours (reducing to three next year) to non-news (because stv runs Scotland Today and North Tonight, it is more like 11 hours of news per week).

But for The Scottish Channel to ‘get off the ground’, Woodward is seeking public money, in the same way as a soon-to-launch Gaelic language digital TV channel. Its partners are the BBC and the Scottish Parliament-funded MG ALBA.

New material on The Scottish Channel may be commissioned only from Scottish independent production companies.

Woodward told “Currently, most people can immediately see the attractiveness of this initiative. The next stage is to properly galvanise political and regulatory support to make it a reality.”