ITV Border news area is just too large

CHANNELS 3 and 5 are to have their licences renewed in 2014 for ten years, subject to negotiations which should include improved local TV news reporting for the Borders.

The UK government’s Culture Secretary Maria Miller has written to the regulator Ofcom asking it to negotiate the renewed licences but she also highlights particular issues she wants Ofcom to look at.

“Under proposals put forward by ITV, viewers in the south of Scotland would not receive the same level of programming about Scotland as those in the northern and central parts of the country,” said the Department for Culture, Media and Sport statement.

“The culture secretary said she wanted to see a way forward that addressed the concerns of viewers in the Border region.”

The department’s comments come after research from Ofcom found that the current ITV Border footprint was too large and it was reporting news from areas in which local viewers had no interest.

It also showed that there was no demand for more Scottish news, but rather more coverage of the Borders region.

South of Scotland Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP, Jim Hume, said that local and regional programming in the Borders must not be compromised under the new agreements.

“The Culture Secretary has already warned that there could be a difference in content received by viewers in the South of Scotland compared with elsewhere in the country,” said Mr Hume.

“As Ofcom negotiates the licences, it’s crucial that viewers in the Borders do not see their regional and local programming compromised.”

Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire Conservative MSP John Lamont said: “A lot of viewers in the Borders region were extremely upset when the decision was taken to merge Border TV with the Tyne Tees region.

“It meant that we lost a service that was tailored to our region and many people started to receive news coverage from areas that were of no interest or relevance.

“It was a short-sighted decision and it is no wonder that the research from Ofcom has shown just how dissatisfied viewers in the Borders are with the service.

“When many thought that there was a demand for more Scottish news, I am glad that the research revealed that local residents would much prefer news from their region, regardless which side of the border it is from.

“I am delighted that the Coalition Government in Westminster has listened to us and called for the return of our more localised TV service.

“The renegotiation of these licences will include an impetus on ITV to create a distinctive new service for our area which will hopefully mean the return of Border TV.”

“I know that many people will be delighted with this news and I am glad that our continued lobbying has paid dividends. I will continue to follow developments closely to ensure that ITV deliver the TV news service that local residents need and deserve.”

In February this year ITV bosses visited the Scottish Parliament to discuss their future broadcasting plans for local television news and heard loud and clear from MSPs from the south of Scotland area that the view of people in the Borders is that they would like to see a local television services in the Borders.