by a Newsnet reporter
SNP politicians have criticised today’s UK Government announcement of proposed locations for local TV in Scotland, the plans have been described as falling “short of the mark” and of having “gaping holes”.
The announcement of 65 local TV stations across the UK included nine in Scotland, the stations will be run by businesses and community groups.
The plans were immediately criticised by the SNP for being far short of what is required in Scotland. The nationalists currently support a Scottish Digital Network as being the best way to sustain local TV services and broadcasting in Scotland.
Responding to the announcement, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop said:
“Local TV services have the potential to bring benefits to viewers across Scotland. However, the UK Government’s plans fall far short of the mark.
“We have real concerns about Jeremy Hunt’s proposals which would leave gaping holes in provision, particularly in rural areas. Today’s announcement makes clear services will not even be established in all the eligible locations.”
“Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders are arguably the parts of Scotland most in need of local television. Viewers here currently receive local news on Channel 3 which is broadcast from Gateshead. Nothing in these inadequate proposals would deliver benefits for viewers in these areas, which are not even on the list of eligible locations.”
Ms Hyslop’s concerns for the Scottish borders, excluded by today’s announcement, were echoed by party colleague Christine Grahame MSP who represents Midlothian, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.
Ms Grahame who conducted a consultation across the Borders when TV broadcasting was moved out of the area to Gateshead said:
“People in the Borders want to see TV and in particular TV news that represents them and reflects their community.
“In the Borders there is no access to national Scottish news on commercial television or to Scottish sports programming and in the recent election key programmes such as the election debates were relegated to late night slots disadvantaging the democratic process. This would never be accepted elsewhere and it is not acceptable here.
“Jeremy Hunt clearly doesn’t get the picture so neither will people in the Borders.
“I am writing to the UK Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt to ask if he even looked at the Borders when he dreamt up this proposal and if he has any idea of the situation Borders viewers find themselves in.”
SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Dr Aileen McLeod expressed the same sentiments and added:
“If ever there was an area that might have benefited from local TV it would be the South of Scotland, yet only Ayr is to have the chance to bid for a licence.
“Local licences will be good news for Ayr, Glasgow and Aberdeen but the South of Scotland must not be excluded.
“This region is not well served with local TV coverage, since ITV amalgamated Border TV with its Northern England operations and in parts of the South West you might find yourself watching Ulster TV instead of Scotland or even Border TV.”
Dr McLeod described the plan as “short sighted” and “frustrating” and claimed that it leaves the region at the back of the queue.
She added: “There is an opportunity to change this, to use both the UK Government’s regional licences and the proposal for a Scottish Digital Network to improve TV in the South of Scotland and it is time the UK Government recognised that.”
According to the Department of Culture Media and Sport up to 20 ‘pioneer’ stations could be granted licences in the first wave of local TV. The stations will transmit on freeview Channel 6 and via the internet to TV sets, once the technology for IPTV is in place.
The stations will benefit from £25m of initial funding taken from the BBC licence fee to fund the broadcasting infrastructure. They will also receive £5m a year for three years from 2014 from the BBC, which will be obliged to spend the money on acquiring content from the new stations.
Aberdeen, Ayr, Dundee, Edinburgh, Elgin, Falkirk, Glasgow, Greenock, Inverness.
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