Tyne Tees, Border or STV – viewers urged to have say

STV or a hark back to the glory days of Border Television before its recent merger with Tyne Tees?

Those are two of the options for television coverage for the Borders currently being touted by local politicans.

Broadcasting regulator Ofcom has handed over guidance to Westminster Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, with the organisation pointing out one option would be for a single Scottish broadcast licence for STV.

This has been welcomed by Christine Grahame, SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, who told us the issue of poor local television coverage was a “long-running sore” among her constituents.

“Viewers don’t get STV news and, instead, get news that is biased towards the north of England,” she said. “In all the surveys that I have done with residents, this is the one issue that keeps coming up. People want to get STV.”

However, David Mundell, Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, says he has doubts that coverage by STV offers the best deal for local viewers.

He believes Border TV in the form it took before its merger with Tyne-Tees provides the best option for providing a local news service, which he says it did successfully for over 40 years.

“I see no advantage for local viewers being part of STV. It would not generate a more local news service – indeed the local area would probably end up getting even less local coverage that it does under the present Tyne-Tees arrangement,” he said.

“I would like to see a return to the sort of Border TV service we knew previously, which had some of the highest viewing figures of any local television in the UK and which is much missed by local people.

“Along with my Scotland Office colleague Borders MP Michael Moore, I intend to meet with Ofcom to discuss their report and to make clear to them the continuing support which local people have for Border TV.”

Now, television viewers in the Borders are being urged to tell Mr Hunt for themselves what they think of the service in the area now and what they would like to see.

Scottish Borders Council Convener, Alasdair Hutton, who is also chairman of the South of Scotland Alliance’s local television group, wants viewers to respond to a government consultation by September 23.

“It will be important for Mr Hunt to know that people in the Borders have never been properly served with local news and information and his proposal is a good chance for him to create a good mix of close-knit city areas and far-flung rural areas,” he said.

“I urge everyone who feels that they would like to see a local television service in the Borders to respond to the Minister and let him know how keen we are to see this become a reality in the Borders.”

The South of Scotland Alliance will be sending a response to the minister’s consultation and Councillor Hutton will be putting the Borders case direct to the minister at a meeting shortly.

Readers wishing to log their views should send an email to enquiries@culture.gov.uk or write to the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London, SW1Y 5DH.