ITV has announced it will start to broadcast 90 minutes a week of current affairs and other programmes in ITV Border Scotland, from January 2014.
Most of the programmes will be made in-house by ITV Border and will concentrate on political issues of relevance to viewers in southern Scotland.
This new programming will include a regular ITV Border evening programme that will report on events at Holyrood and Westminster. It will cover Scottish political affairs with a particular focus on southern Scotland.
The programme will take a lot of its content from the floor and committees of the Scottish Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
ITV Border will also look to interview local MSPs and MPs on a frequent basis. The evening programme will normally be broadcast after News at Ten.
ITV Border’s managing editor Catherine Houlihan said: “We are looking forward to providing current affairs and other programming which not only informs viewers, but also reflects the unique nature of the region.”
In 2014, in the run up to the September referendum, ITV Border will broadcast a number programmes looking at the arguments for and against Scotland becoming an independent country.
The announcement was welcomed by politicians from across the political spectrum.
South of Scotland MSP Aileen McLeod. She said: “These are welcome developments which will go some way towards redressing the balance as far as TV coverage of news and current affairs in the South of Scotland is concerned.
“I welcome the commitment to dedicated Scottish news and current affairs reporting for south of Scotland viewers and that this will start in January 2014. As far as I am concerned that won’t be a moment too soon.
“For too long ITV Border viewers have been restricted in what they are able to receive in terms of coverage of Scottish issues, particularly when compared with the sort of programming that is now being offered by STV. The merger of ITV Border and ITV Tyne-Tees simply shifted the balance to an unacceptable extent.
“Although I believe that a single Scottish channel three licence is the best way to provide progammes which are relevant to Scotland, I do recognise that what is now being offered to ITV Border viewers is more than a return to the old days of ITV Border.
“I am pleased that there will be more local content and more Scottish news and current affairs, even by comparison with the old-style Border TV and that from November this year there will finally be the technical flexibility for different programming to be shown in Scotland than in England.”
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “I welcome these plans from ITV Border as they mean enhanced coverage of issues that matter to communities in Dumfries and Galloway. ITV Border has recognised there is no reason why it cannot split coverage at certain points to accommodate the demand from residents for more local stories. ITV Border Scotland viewers will be able to watch Scotland-specific current affairs programmes while those viewers in Cumbria continue to watch to the same programmes as the rest of England. That it is planning to makes specific programmes is also great news. Its plan to recruit more staff shows it is taking their commitment its our region seriously and the creation of new jobs should be welcomed.”
And Elaine Murray MSP added: “The vast majority of people were largely content with the coverage we got from Border TV in past and I believe they will welcome these new programmes. Ofcom rejected the proposals from SNP politicians who basically wanted us to be swallowed up by STV and simply have to suffer programmes about Glasgow and Edinburgh.
“Under the SNP proposals there would have been practically no coverage of our region. However, under these plans we will see an increase in local coverage with programmes being made in-house by ITV Border. These programmes will concentrate on political matters of relevance to us in region. This is what the majority of local people wanted. Programmes made for the region by people in the region.”