Editor | 23-07-2013
After having finalised public service broadcasting licences to operate in the UKís independent TV sector, Ofcom has set out the terms that will apply to ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5.
The UK broadcast regulator has revealeddecisions on revised programming obligations and the methodology for setting financial terms of the new licences for ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5. Decisions on the structure of the regional licensed areas for ITV have also been laid out.
One of the standout issues that Ofcom has decreed is an insistence that viewers in many areas will receive TV news that is designed to be more relevant to their local area. With local TV one of the key planks in the media strategy of the UK Government, Ofcom has approved proposals for a more localised Channel 3 news service across England. This will see ITV provide regional news in 14 separate news regions compared to the current eight news regions it operates. No changes will be made to the Channel 5 programming obligations.
Ofcom considers that, in most regions, the benefits to viewers of a more localised news service will more than offset the reduction in the amount of regional news that ITV is required to provide under its licences. It has reduced the requirement for a weekday regional news bulletin in the early evening from 30 minutes to 20 minutes in all but two of ITVís licences.
In an interesting development, ITVís early evening news bulletins will continue to be 30 minutes long but Ofcom rejected ITVís proposals for London and North West England Ė the countryís two largest regions Ė which it feels would have reduced the volume of regional news without providing more localised coverage to benefit viewers.
Ofcom is also requiring 30 minutes of weekday early evening regional news content in the Border region which covers both sides of the England/Scotland border. The regulator has mandated enhanced coverage of Scottish affairs in the area covered by ITVís Border licence that lies in Scotland to better serve viewers. In addition to retaining a full 30 minutes of weekday early evening news relevant to the region, Ofcom will require a further weekly 90 minutes of regional programming to be scheduled for viewing in the Scottish part of the Border region.
The regulator has also published a statement setting out the methodology it will use to determine the financial terms on which the licences will be renewed. Ofcom will decide on the size of these payments made to HM Treasury later in 2014.