Regulator wants no more local TV
Ofcom backs new BBC channel as roll-out is halted
BBC Scotland: ‘a channel for modern Scotland’ (photo by Terry Murden)
Media watchdog Ofcom has given its provisional support to the BBC’s plans for a new Scottish channel amid concerns over the viability of more channels.
The regulator, which recently took on the responsibility for monitoring the corporation, said that after “careful review” it would allow the BBC to proceed as planned.
The BBC announced the new 7pm to midnight channel last year and it is expected to begin broadcasting in the autumn.
There is a budget of £32 million – which critics say is too little – and it will include an hour long news bulletin covering “international, UK and Scottish stories, told from a Scottish perspective.”
The channel will be launched as Ofcom puts a squeeze on further commercial licences being granted. It has proposed there be no further local TV channels across the UK because of concerns over their “economic viability”.
More than 30 local TV stations have already been set up in the UK as part of a plan laid out in 2011 by then culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.
But several of the channels have faced financial difficulties and have struggled to attract an audience.
STV launched its own global news service after winning a competitive tender in 2102 for city-based licences. But it has merged the Glasgow and Edinburgh operations and STV2 is loss-making and now part of a review launched by its new chief executive. As such the BBC’s new channel may put greater strain on those not able to access public funds.
Regarding the BBC’s plans, Ofcom today said: “Following careful review, our provisional decision is that the BBC may proceed with the launch of the new channel as planned, as we consider the public value offered by a BBC Scotland channel would justify any potential adverse effects on fair and effective competition it may cause.
“We are seeking views from interested or affected organisations and individuals on our provisional decision, which must be submitted by 18 May 2018.
“Following this consultation, we will review all feedback from stakeholders, and intend to publish our final decision on whether the BBC may proceed with the launch of the channel by July 2018. Further information is available on our website.”
Steve Carson, head of multi-channel commissioning for BBC Scotland, said: “We believe that this will be a channel for modern Scotland, a home for compelling, quality content that appeals to and reflects the diversity of Scottish audiences.
“It will enable viewers in Scotland to see more of their lives, stories and interests on screen.
“A lot of exciting programme ideas have been pitched to us from across the creative sector in Scotland. We’ve already ‘greenlit’ some projects and are piloting others.
“There will be investment in new drama, comedy and factual programmes, bringing fresh talent and a range of perspectives to Scotland’s screens.”
Daily Business comment: It has to be hoped this new channel lives up to its billing. There has been so much noise, particularly around the so-called Scottish Six, that if it falls short of expectations then it may prove embarrassing for the BBC and for those who have demanded more Scottish-made television news. STV launched its own ‘global’ TV channel in response and as something of a spoiler, but rumours abound over the future of STV2.
Steve Carson, one of the BBC’s many backroom staff, says the new offering from the corporation will be “a channel for modern Scotland”. If that means it will share the its inability to apply a measured approach to some projects, such as sending small armies of reporters to events such as the Commonwealth Games in Australia, then it will also soon work through its seemingly modest budget. Given BBC Scotland’s failure to fully recognise the existence of ‘modern’ Scottish online news services such as Daily Business its promises will have to be taken on trust.