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ITV Border's future under review

ITV Border
Ofcom is mulling two different proposals as part of a consultation on how the ITV service for the Border region will continue in the future. The plans could pave the way for STV shows to air on Border and allow extra airtime for Scottish politics.

The consultation follows concerns that the currently merged ITV Tyne Tees Border service is too large and inadequately provides the Scottish part of its region with relevant news.

ITV's proposal
Under the first of the proposals, submitted to Ofcom by ITV, Border region viewers would regain a wholly separate news programme providing 30 minutes of news for Cumbria, Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.

For 40 weeks a year, a weekly 30 minute political programme would be broadcast at 10:35pm on a weeknight. The majority of the programme would be concerned with Scottish political matters and would receive a repeat showing later in the week. Special programmes could be scheduled to address big events such as the independence referendum or Scottish general elections.

If this proposal went ahead, ITV would appoint a new ITV Border Political Editor. While newsgathering and the compilation of reports would take place within the Border region, regional programmes for the Border licence area would continue to be produced from the regional hub in Gateshead.

Proposal two
The second proposal outlined by Ofcom comprises a separate regional news programme for the Border region, but would involve ordering ITV to provide 90 minutes of non-news regional programming, including current affairs, a week in or near to peak time. This increased quota of regional programming provision would allow ITV to launch the Political Programme favoured in its proposal alongside other content for the region or content provided by STV.  The proposal would allow ITV to approach STV with a view of showing Scotland Tonight or another STV programme in the Border region.

Ofcom notes that "the decision as to whether to broadcast bespoke programming for Border or to share programming with STV would be a commercial one for ITV and STV, and not onethat Ofcom could dictate in the licence for either Border or STV."

Before the most recent cutbacks to ITV regions, ITV used to offer a separate Border Scotland service which opted out of the main ITV schedule to show STV sports programming. However, ITV noted in its submission to Ofcom that Scotland Tonight has a lower audience share than the equivalent networked programme in the Border region, indicating it is not keen on this aspect of the proposal.

The consultation is part of a wider review of Channel 3 licences ahead of their renewal next year. The consultation also outlines plans to cut regional programming hours in English regions other than Border from 4 hours a week to 2 hours and 30 minutes, under condition of the reinstatement of separate ITV regional news shows for regions such as the East Midlands, South and East Yorkshire and the Thames Valley.

Channel 3 services for Scotland (except Border) and Wales would continue to be obligated to show 5 hours 30 minutes of regional programming a week while Northern Ireland's UTV would see its regional commitment cut from 6 hours to 5 hours 30 minutes a week in line with Scotland. ITV Channel TV would be set a quota of 3 hours and 20 minutes of regional programming, down 40 minutes on current rules.

The document is available on the Ofcom website and is open for comments until 2nd May 2013. http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/c3-c5-obligations/summary/c3-c5-obligations.pdf
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