There was shock amongst many in the TV industry as the UK government announced the preferred bidder to run the new independent Scottish news service.
The Scottish News Consortium – which includes TV production company Tinopolis as well as newspaper publishers Johnston Press (publishers of The Scotsman), Newsquest subsidiary The Herald and Times Group and D C Thomson – beat strong favourites STV in the bid to produce Scottish news.
The UK government had insisted on bids after commercial stations said they could no longer afford to make local bulletins without a government subsidy.
Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw today announced the preferred bidders for the three independently funded news consortia (IFNC) pilots in Scotland, Wales and the Tyne Tees/Border region in England.
These consortia will receive UK Government funding totalling £47 million over two years, and will provide local news content across the web, mobile, and other new platforms, along with the television slot currently occupied by ITV and STV regional news. In Scotland the planned website would also act as a portal to 130 local newspaper partner websites.
The Chairman of the Scottish News Consortium is former ITN chief executive Mark Wood who stepped down from that role in early 2009.
The wisdom of allowing so much Scottish broadcast news output to be controlled by the same companies that control much of the press output has been questioned by some.
That the SNC consortium will rely on Westminster for funding has also led to disquiet amongst many who have asked what controls or monitoring are to be put in place to ensure balanced reporting. Given that Scotland has a devolved government and there has been strong condemnation of at least two of the Scottish newspaper publishers over perceived political bias then such concerns are surely justified.
One critic said of the decision to bypass STV:
“It’s as if over half a century of providing decent regional news services for Northern and Central has counted for nothing.”
The contracts are expected to be signed shortly. However, the Conservatives are committed to stopping the plans from going ahead if they win the general election.
The BBC has come under attack for their delay in making a decision on whether to place BBC Alba on Freeview. The BBC Trust have announced that there will be a delay in putting the channel on Freeview due to the fact that a strategic review will have to be done first before any decision is made.
SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar Angus MacNeil has expressed his disappointment saying:
“The BBC Trust should stop dithering, show some leadership and make the correct decision, The Gaelic Community have been more than patient and understanding with the foibles of the BBC and its apparatus. This is treating the many people who took part in the consultation on BBC Alba with disdain.
“I am very disappointed that this consultation has not done what it promised.
“BBC Alba remains the only BBC channel not available on Freeview. Why did the trust wait until the end of the consultation to decide it could not make a decision? And then blame the BBC review? It is very late in the day.”
“The Gaelic Proverb “Ruigidh each mall muilean” describing slow but steady progress by an old horse now appears to be talking about a Thoroughbred racehorse in comparison to the BBC Trust.”