ITV to cut regional programmes by 90 minutes a week in Ofcom proposal

ITV is to be permitted to cut the time spent on regional programmes in English regions every week from 4 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes, according to proposals announced by Ofcom today.

The proposals are outlined in a new consultation document, which has been published following the decision by Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to enable the renewal of the current public service broadcasting licences for the Channel 3 services (ITV, STV and UTV) for another 10 years from the end of 2014.

In return for the 90 minute reduction, which will not apply in the ITV Border region, ITV has promised to reinstate completely separate regional programming for several sub-regions that were axed during ITV regional news cuts in 2009.

Currently, viewers in numerous ITV regions see a regional news programme covering an enlarged region containing a short split within the programme to cover more local stories. This has resulted in viewers in Rutland seeing stories about Shropshire in Central's news programming and viewers in Gloucester seeing news about Redruth in the Westcountry bulletins.

ITV proposes to reinstate separate news bulletins for the the following regions:
  • East Midlands (served by the Waltham transmitter group) de-merging from West Midlands, 
  • South and East Yorkshire (served by the Belmont and Sheffield transmitter groups), de-merging from North/West Yorkshire.
  • Tyne Tees (served by the Bilsdale, Chatton and Pontop Pike transmitter groups), de-merging from Border.
  • western parts of the Anglia region (served by Sandy Heath), de-merging from Anglia East.
  • Meridian East (served by Bluebell Hill, Dover and Heathfield transmitter groups), de-merging from Meridian South
  • Westcountry (served by Beacon Hill, Caradon Hill, Huntshaw Cross, Stockland Hill and Redruth transmitter groups), de-merging from the West region.
plus a sub-opt out for the Thames Valley region (served by the Hannington and Oxford transmitters) from the Meridian South bulletin.

Programmes would continue to be broadcast from regional hubs, not necessarily within the region being served by the news programmes. For instance, ITV News Central East would continue to be made in Birmingham. Depending on the news of the day, one of the programmes made in a regional hub would be recorded in advance of broadcast.

AT A GLANCE: The proposals >

Under the proposals, regional news in England (excluding Border) would consist of 20 minutes of local news and weather for each region, followed by 10 minutes of shared content between regions.

Providing more information about those 10 minutes of other content, ITV said in its proposal: "we are planning a structure that preserves a half hour programme regionally presented but in which the remaining 10 minutes of material could come from outside the region. This would not necessarily be a rigid ten minutes at the end of the programme. Where the ten minutes is deployed would be decided on the day by the programme makers."

"We anticipate much of the ‘out of area’ material will be drawn from items that have already been commissioned for primary use elsewhere but on some occasions there may be specially commissioned material."

"For example, a story about a head teacher in the south preventing parents taking children on holiday in term time will have meaning elsewhere."

Away from the 6pm newshour, ITV and Ofcom propose to cut late night regional bulletin lengths and reduce the lunchtime news update from 6 minutes 30 seconds to 3 minutes length. Weekend updates would be reduced to just 5 minutes a day, but would cover the smaller de-merged regions.

The Border region, which is divided between England and Scotland, is subject to a different set of proposals.  Read more >

Meanwhile, in the Channel Islands, ITV Channel TV would be required to offer 3 hours 20 minutes of regional content every week from 2015, a reduction of 40 minutes a week, but 40 minutes more than is required for English regions.

Wales will see its own Channel 3 region from 2015, with a requirement for ITV to continue to provide 5 hours 30 minutes a week of programmes for Wales. Read more >

In Scotland, STV will continue to be required to show 5 hours 30 minutes of regional output a week across its Central and Northern Scottish licence regions.

Finally, Northern Irish broadcaster UTV will see its regional content requirement cut from 6 hours to 5 hours 30 minutes, bringing the Northern Irish Channel 3 licence in line with requirements for Scottish and Welsh Channel 3 licence holders.

AT A GLANCE: The proposals >

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