|Regional news on ITV will have to be more localised in England by 2015|
The announcement came as Ofcom revealed the future obligations of Channel 3 licensees across the UK, which include ITV plc in England, Wales, Channel Islands and Scottish Borders, STV in Central and Northern Scotland and UTV in Northern Ireland.
Smaller sub-regions including Central East, for the East Midlands, and regions that have merged their output, such as West and Westcountry will see standalone news programmes reinstated for the first time since 2009, meaning viewers will see news more relevant for their area. The changes will be in place in time for the start of the new Channel 3 licence period in 2015.
However, the overall minutage per week for most English regions will be cut to 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. The main evening news bulletin at 6pm will consist of 20 minutes of more localised news and 10 minutes of news of interest to viewers in multiple regions. ITV Granada and London will continue to be required to fill the full 30 minute bulletin with content specific for their region.
The decision to force ITV Granada to retain a full 30 minutes dedicated to the North West came after local MPs and representatives from the Isle of Man all voiced their concerns over the original proposal - which came from ITV - to reduce the minutage devoted to North West news.
ENGLAND (NOT BORDER)
4 HOURS A WEEK
minimum 2 HOURS 30 MINUTES
Regional news programmes merged in 2009 to cover larger regions will be split, so that all regional news bulletins on ITV will be for smaller parts of the UK. The 6pm bulletin will contain 20 minutes of local news and weather, and 10 minutes of shared content between ITV regions, except in Granada and London, where the main bulletin will continue to consist of 30 minutes of content relevant to the region.
The ITV West region will be detached from ITV Wales and attached to ITV Westcountry to become ITV South West, but with two sub-regions to provide separate news bulletins.
Proposed news regions:
Anglia East REINSTATED
Central East REINSTATED
Meridian East REINSTATED
Meridian South with Thames Valley opt out REINSTATED
South West (West)
South West (Westcountry) REINSTATED
Yorkshire (East) REINSTATED
Following concerns that the reinstatement of Yorkshire East will lead to Freeview viewers in parts of Sheffield receiving the wrong regional news, Ofcom has confirmed that it will publish advice for consumers affected by this issue. Ofcom believes the problem "is likely to affect a relatively small number of households, some of whom may be able to obtain the right service from a weaker but still serviceable signal by manually retuning their set top boxes or by re-orienting their TV aerials."
In Wales, the ITV service will continue to be bound to offer dedicated coverage for Wales, but on paper, the licence for ITV Wales will be split from ITV West. ITV West and Wales have effectively been separate on-screen since the end of ITV regional identities a decade ago, before which the service was branded "HTV". ITV West and Westcountry will form a new licence area, but with each section carrying standalone news programmes, departing from the current partially shared output.
ITV will have to reinstate separate programming for the ITV Border area in Scotland. On Freeview, it is already technically possible to broadcast two separate versions from the Caldbeck transmitter in Cumbria - Border Scotland (for Dumfries and Galloway) and Border England (for Cumbria). The Selkirk transmitter group would also carry the reinstated ITV Border Scotland service. On satellite, the changes will mean a reinstatement of a separate Border (Scotland) feed for Sky and Freesat viewers.
Programming wise, ITV Border will be obligated to show 90 minutes of extra current affairs programming for its Scottish viewers, a matter that has a high profile ahead of the forthcoming Scottish Referendum. ITV plc will have the choice of either creating that extra content on its own, or to work together with Glasgow-based STV to share content. Border viewers will also see extended news for their area on the flagship Lookaround news programme.
In the rest of Scotland, there will be little change to regional output obligations laid down in the licence. Here, STV has - on its own accord - boosted regional output with separate regional news programmes for Glasgow and Edinburgh.
In Northern Ireland, UTV's request to reduce its statutory obligations regarding non-news programmes were turned down. Ofcom noted that UTV did not actually plan to cut the volume of programming and did not argue that the current levels were unsustainable. In addition audience data supplied by UTV indicates that regional programming is more popular in Northern Ireland than in many other parts of the UK. Accordingly, and in the "absence of compelling arguments for reductions in the current level of programming", Ofcom decided to carry forward the obligations under the current licence.
Finally, in the Channel Islands, Ofcom agreed to ITV proposals to reduce regional obligations from 4 hours a week to 3 hours and 20 minutes a week. ITV proposed that the Channel Islands should have a combined regional programming obligation (covering news, current affairs and other regional programming) of 3 hours 20 minutes in a typical week, instead of 4 hours at present. As part of this, ITV proposed to retain a full 30 minute early evening weekday bulletin of regional news, but ‘to ensure a sustainable service’ to reduce minutage at other times of the day and at weekends.