TELEVISION viewers in the Borders would rather have news from their local area than a Scotland-wide service, according to the reseach findings of Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog.
During a debate in the Scottish Parliament about the future of television provision in the south of the country, South of Scotland MSPs highlighted Ofcom’s research findings that support the arguement for a local solution rather than the region being tagged on to central Scotland.
In securing the debate MSP Joan McAlpine welcomed the fact that STV will continue to hold the licences for central Scotland and Grampian but she expressesd concern that local news in the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway comes mainly from a television studio in Gateshead. She also welcomed the acknowledgement of the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport of the deficiencies in local and Scottish news coverage in the Border Television region and her request that Ofcom work with ITV plc. to find a solution.
Speaking after the debate, John Lamont, MSP for Roxburgh, Ettrick and Berwickshire, said: “The amalgamation of ITV Border with ITV Tyne Tees in 2009 caused a lot of upset amongst local viewers and it is important that we do what we can to improve it.
“The UK Culture Minister’s decision to renew the licences for ITV and Channel 5 present an opportunity to change television coverage in the South of Scotland for the better.
“While the SNP were trying to use this as an excuse to push a Scotland-wide service, research has shown time and again that this is not what Borders viewers want. They are looking for a TV service that provides relevant news about their local area, not regions that are far away and of little interest.”
South of Scotland List MSP Jim Hume,(Liberal Democrat) Borders MSP, also supports local news content for the Borders.
“The SNP might well be supportive of STV assuming responsibilities for the output currently provided by ITV Border,” said Mr Hume. “However, the fact is that Borderers look to Channel 3’s regional news as the place for the more localised content, but there is a fear that local content would simply be replaced by a Central Belt bias.
“Ofcom’s own research made clear that the preferred option remains going back to the pre-2009 service where seeing a news crew on Borders streets was common place.”
Borders MP Michael Moore added: “It is clear from Ofcom’s research that ITV Borders is popular locally and it has always been my priority as local MP that viewers’ preferences must come first.
“I have met with ITV recently and they outlined their ongoing commitment to providing local news coverage for the Borders and their plans to improve the service going forward.”