South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine will today (Wednesday) lead a debate in the Scottish Parliament on the future of local television in the south of Scotland.
Members will debate concern at the deficiencies in ITV’s local and Scottish news coverage in the Border region.
Ofcom have expressed concerns that ITV, which currently holds the Channel Three licence for the former Border television area, has limited public service content obligations.
Following a 2009 merger between ITV Border and ITV Tyne Tees, most local news in the Dumfries and Galloway area now comes from Gateshead. This has led to a stark decline in local television and news broadcasting.
Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:
“People in the south of Scotland of course get BBC Scotland. But it is unreasonable to suggest that one source of TV programming about Scotland is acceptable. If the BBC was the sole provider of news for the UK, and there was no Sky or ITN, we’d rightly complain of an unfair monopoly.
“The lack of Scottish and local news coverage in the Border area is something that is of considerable concern to my constituents.
“While the Border region does receive BBC content, it is important for choice, democracy and civil society that they also get access to alternative content.
“STV has offered to provide ITV in the region with non-news content at cost. This would include the current affairs show Scotland Tonight. In my view, this is an offer that ITV should be urged to consider.”
She added: “Maria Miller, the UK Culture Secretary, has acknowledged these problems and has asked Ofcom to work with ITV to improve the news coverage on offer in this vast area of Scotland.
“This is a live issue and comes at an important time, as people in the south of Scotland will be considering how to vote in the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence. It is important that they have as much access as possible to news and current affairs from Scotland.
“This debate will involve all political parties in the Scottish Parliament and will be closed by the Scottish Culture Minister.”