Ofcom and MSPs meet to discuss future of TV news

THE future of TV news coverage in the Borders was discussed by MSPs and representatives of Ofcom on Tuesday, at a meeting hosted by South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume.

The regulator recently launched a consultation process on two options for the future of news broadcasting in the region.

Mr Hume said: “We now come to a critical point, where Ofcom has a job in deciding the future licence obligations of STV and ITV Border.

“There is, of course, a balance to be struck in achieving improved local content and national news in the run up to important elections.

“However, people like having localised television content which they can relate to and there is no doubt that the relicensing offers a chance to improve on the current service.”

He added: “I would be happy to see a return to the old Border TV region, an opinion reflected in Ofcom’s own research and a view expressed to me by many people I talk to.”

Two options were put forward by Ofcom last month for consultation, both of which seek to effectively reverse the 2009 merger of ITV Border and Tyne Tees, with southern Scotland to get local news from the former ITV Border region only.

The first option, suggested by ITV themselves, is for a 30-minute weekday broadcast, supplemented by one 30-minute current affairs/political show a week, mainly covering southern Scotland and Scottish political debate.

The second option would also see a 30-minute weekday evening broadcast, with an additional 90 minutes of current affairs/political coverage a week, although the latter would not have to be centred on the Borders region.

The issue has united local politicians, with all welcoming the chance for improved news coverage for the Borders.

After attending Tuesday’s meeting, John Lamont MSP said: “The first option proposed would deliver more relevant coverage about the region and for that reason I support it wholeheartedly.

“What was discussed was the importance of hearing the opinions of local viewers. The option they choose will largely be based on the views they hear in their consultation, and for that reason I would encourage everyone who cares about local TV provision in their area to take part.

“It should only take a couple of minutes and gives all of us a unique opportunity to shape the future of news provision in the Borders for years to come.”

The consultation, which is available on the Ofcom website, closes on May 2. However, as the current broadcast licences do not expire until the end of 2014, it is likely that any changes will not come into effect until January 2015.