Local politicians have welcomed an announcement by TV regulator Ofcom of proposals for an improved ITV service for viewers in south west Scotland.
The proposals include 30 minutes of weekday early evening news for the Border region, covering both sides of the Scotland-England border and a further 90 minutes of regional programming for the Scottish part of the region.
Galloway MP Russell Brown said: “These proposals appear to be a sensible way forward and are exactly the type of solution we were calling for. It will mean an enhanced coverage of issues that matter to communities in Dumfries and Galloway, but still recognises that people in our area are interested in what happens in neighbouring communities south of the border. The biggest complaint local people had was since the merger of Tynes Tees and Border, the really localised news we had from Border TV was being missed on occasions. This wasn’t Tynes Tees fault as they have to cover such a large area. We consistently argued that there was no reason why we couldn’t have split coverage at certain points to accommodate the demand from residents for more local stories, whereby people in the North of England receive coverage of their area and people in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders receive more coverage of our area in the south of Scotland. The technology for such split coverage exists to make that happen without the crazy idea of viewers in our area being served by STV, who frankly had no interested whatsoever in providing such coverage. I am delighted that the arguments put forward by people who actually live in the region, have been accepted”.
Galloway MSP Alex Fergusson said: “All the constituents I have spoken to on this issue made it clear that they wanted to see a return to a news service that was more focussed on our area. When the decision was taken to merge Border TV with the Tyne Tees region, many people were hugely upset as it meant we lost a news service that was specifically tailored to our area.
“Ofcom’s own research shows that viewers in the Borders are not so much interested in news from other areas but rather want more news and information about what is going on in their local area.
“I am pleased that Ofcom have approved plans which will see a return to the type of news service which we had prior to the merger of the Border and Tyne Tees. However, we must also ensure that ITV go ahead with their plans to produce local current affairs programming in addition to the news service. I hope to meet with ITV in the coming weeks, and will seek reassurances that my constituents will receive the service that they hope for.”
Gordon Mann, Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Chamber of Commerce, said: “We welcome this and look forward to a return to a dedicated news service relevant to our region. With the Scottish Parliament charting out a different course from Westminster and the upcoming debate on independence, it makes more sense for us to be part of the Scottish debate and to hear first hand about these issues.
“The idea that you can effectively deal with the South of Scotland as an opt out from an ITV station serving the massive north east regions of England was never going to work.”
Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Governent’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, said: “We welcome that OFCOM have supported the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament’s calls that the Scottish Borders should receive enhanced news and current affairs relevant to Scotland.
“It is vital that everyone in Scotland has the opportunity to be fully informed in advance of the independence referendum next year.
“Ofcom have rightly recognised the importance of ensuring that news and current affairs across all our communities meets the needs of viewers at this important time and into the future.”
Until 2009, Border TV broadcast a local service for Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders until ITV merged the service with neighbouring Tyne Tees. Since 2009, Border’s news bulletins have been presented from Gateshead near Newcastle