STV calls for change in ITV Network

Friday, November 13 2009, 12:58 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

STV has called for major reform in the way it buys programmes from the ITV Network following a series of recent scheduling disputes.

The Channel 3 licence holder in central and north Scotland recently dropped The Bill and Doc Martin from its schedule as part of an ongoing strategy to favour Scottish programming.

In September, ITV launched legal action against STV to recover £38 million of alleged unpaid network budget contributions.

As relations between the two companies continue to worsen, STV wants a new commercial deal which would enable it to purchase just the programmes it wants from ITV.

Under the current arrangement, STV still has to pay for any ITV shows it drops from the schedule, but the company believes that it should be able to opt out without being charged.

Speaking to Broadcast, STV chief executive Rob Woodward called for the current arrangement with ITV to be dropped in favour of a "straightforward commercial relationship" such as that enjoyed by Dublin-based channel TV3.

As it is external to the ITV Network, TV3 is able to buy the broadcaster's most popular programmes on a straight commercial basis.

"TV3 buys access to the ITV1 schedule, it can schedule as it wants, it can weave in its own programming or acquired programming - that to me looks like a productive template," said Woodward.

"We need to have a more straightforward way of working which, at the same time, would address some of the tensions within the current structure."

In response, an ITV spokesman said that the company would "warmly welcome" a similar relationship with STV to the one it currently has with TV3.

"The existing networking arrangements simply weren't designed for a network 92% owned by one company. Either STV is in the ITV Network, benefiting from - in effect - a 'volume discount' for taking the schedule, or it isn't part of the ITV Network and therefore pays a market rate for those programmes it wants to carry - just like TV3," he explained.

"Quite apart from it having no legal basis, STV's opt-out strategy attempts to get the full benefits of being a member of the Network without carrying its fair share of the financial obligations. The TV3 model is a sensible suggestion from STV. ITV will continue to seek payment for the significant sums owing from STV."