A quarter of a million or 5% of Scots would have been denied the chance to watch Scotland’s party leaders debate the future direction of Scotland this evening had ITV not been shamed into a U turn into broadcasting the programme.
ITV bosses in the borders region seemed set to avoid having the leaders’ debate at all until pressure was applied. Across the borders viewers were told by the broadcaster that ITV Tyne Tees & Border in effect had no plans to broadcast key election debates which have an impact upon issues directly affecting the lives of people across the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway and south west Ayrshire.
Constituents were furious said Paul Wheelhouse, SNP candidate for Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire. Mr Wheelhouse said his fellow constituents were given a response to their request to see these broadcasts and Newsnet Scotland has procured a copy of the response from ITV bosses. It said: “Thank you for your email regarding Scotland Debates. The programme which is being broadcast by STV on the 29th March is not being shown by ITV – sorry to disappoint … Julia, ITV Viewer Services”
Mr Wheelhouse pointed to what he believes is a more systemic problem underlying the failure to cover the debate: “This was a truly woeful response and reflects the marginalisation of current affairs in the South of Scotland following the merger of Border TV with Tyne Tees in 2009.”
“It is bad enough that we have to suffer our news being dominated by events in Newcastle but this would have simply been a dereliction of duty to 5% of the Scottish population and as much as one third of the entire South of Scotland parliamentary region. If ever we needed a demonstration of why broadcasting powers should be devolved to Scotland this is it. This intolerable situation would simply not be allowed to continue by any Scottish Government of any stripe that had broadcasting powers. Those powers reside with the ConDems at present, so where is the protest from the acquiescent Scottish Secretary Michael Moore on this issue or his new Tory chum David Mundell? If Moore wants to counter the widespread impression that he has given so far that he is not Scotland’s man in Westminster but instead the Tories’ man in Scotland, he should be demanding an immediate U-turn by ITV over this disgraceful decision. At the moment both men seem asleep at the wheel.”
However, having secured a U turn by ITV those in the region were then informed that they could see the programme but at 11.45pm. Although the U turn will be welcome the late midweek scheduling for the show will only add insult to injury for those Scots affected.
Mr Wheelhouse pulled no punches in his verdict on the broadcaster’s conduct: “ITV Bosses have displayed a blend of ignorance and utter contempt for Borders viewers demanding to hear debates on Scottish issues.”
Christine Grahame another SNP candidate in the region, standing for Midlothian South, Tweedale and Lauderdale was glad about the U turn but indignant about the ITV attitude towards borders’ viewers saying: “It is unfortunate that viewers in the Scottish Borders were still being told by ITV customer services only a few days ago that this broadcast was not going to take place.
“Bosses at ITV have now contacted me and assured me they do now plan to show the debate and have also updated their View Services handlers with the most updated information.
“It is vital that viewers in the Scottish Borders get the chance to see these debates and I am delighted that will now be the case.”
However, there is some good news, which might focus minds and advertisers at ITV Tyne Tees & Border. The good news is that Sky customers can install STV as an “other channel” that can be accessed to see the debates and we can vote with our feet. Unless they broadcast the debates, I shall therefore be shunning ITV Border on 29th March and the 3rd May and perhaps more regularly besides.
Here are the instructions and it does work surprisingly easily:
1) Press “Services” on your Sky Remote and a list of 8 or 9 selections will appear.
2) Press “4” for “System Setup” and then again press “4” or scroll down to highlight selection number 4 which is “Add Channels”. Another menu will appear displaying Frequency, Polarization, Symbol Rate and FEC.
3) Change the Frequency by tapping in the five numbers 10906.
4) Change the Polarization to “V” using your left or right curser on your remote control.
5) Change the Symbol Rate to 22.0 using your left or right curser on your remote control.
6) Change the FEC number to display 5/6 using your left or right curser on your remote control.
7) Move your curser to highlight “Find Channels” at the bottom of the menu and press “Select”.
8) You will now see a list of available channels including STV. Simply highlight STV and press the yellow button. A tick will now appear next to STV. Press “Select” again to store STV.
9) Press “Back Up” several times to come out of all the menus until you get your Sky picture again.
10) Whenever you wish to watch STV in the future simply press “Services” on your remote control which will bring up the menu. Press “9” or scroll down to highlight selection 9 which is “Other Channels” and you will then be able to highlight STV and press “Select” to watch.
Sounds complicated but it’s simple and will take you less than 2 minutes. Well worth it and it does work.