MSPs discuss local news with ITV chiefs

itv bosses visited the Scottish Parliament last week to discuss future broadcasting plans for local television news when the current licences run out in 2014.

The South of Scotland Alliance has already indicated that the view of people in the Borders is that they have never been properly served with local news and information and would like to see a local television service in the Borders.

When Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont met with ITV’s director of news, Michael Jermey, and head of public affairs, Jane Hill, to discuss their future plans for broadcasting local television news in the Borders he emphasised just how important it is that the current service is maintained and developed.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Lamont said, “I was delighted to be able to invite representatives from ITV into the Scottish Parliament. We wanted to find out what their plans were for providing and maintaining local television news services over the coming years.

“Local news services are an important way of informing people of what is going on in their community, while providing a chance for local campaign groups and sports teams to publicise their activities.

“It is vital that these services are maintained and improved for years to come and I was glad to have the chance to put this view across to ITV.

“There continue to be concerns that our news is combined with coverage from Cumbria and the north east of England. However, there is an important balance to be struck between ensuring that our news remains local whilst at the same time ensuring that is of good quality.

“This meeting was a welcome opportunity to ensure that ITV know how much people in the Borders value their local TV service. Programmes such as Lookaround receive a huge share of the audience and it is important that time is always dedicated specifically to local news.”

Jim Hume, South of Scotland Scottish Liberal Democrat List MSP for South Scotland, also emphasised the importance of retaining local Borders news coverage within the Lookaround programme.

Mr Hume said: “There has been concern for a long time about the future of local news coverage in the Borders since the ITV merger with Tyne Tees, particularly a loss of coverage through Lookaround.

“Six minutes are devoted to Scottish regional news within Lookaround, but clearly improvements can always be made.

“But it was important to make it clear to the ITV senior team again that local news in the Borders is crucial in terms of conveying relevant news to viewers and that service must be retained and improved.”

When speaking at an Edinburgh TV Festival in 2010 Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I’m trying to find a structure for local news that would mean that we would have no regional news obligations on ITV licences in that 2014 licence

“This is a Government that believes passionately in decentralisation and in putting power in the hands of local individuals and local communities.”