Borders to get extra 90 minutes of local TV

The River Nith in Dumfries. Residents will get extra local TV content after an Ofcom ruling. Picture: Neil Hanna
The River Nith in Dumfries. Residents will get extra local TV content after an Ofcom ruling. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE SCOTTISH Borders will receive an additional 90 minutes of local programming a week, following a ruling by the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom.

• ITV ordered to improve service for those in Scottish borders

• Borders region covers England and Scotland - viewers in Dumfries receive ‘local’ news from Cumbria

• ‘Enhanced coverage’ required after Ofcom ruling

The region gets less regional programming than any other area in the nations, according to Ofcom.

ITV has been asked to spend more money north of the border to ensure viewers receive adequate coverage, particularly in the run-up to next year’s independence referendum.

Residents have complained that ITV Borders’s Lookaround news programme does not have enough news from north of the border, receiving “local” stories from Cumbria.

But residents have also warned against replacing English news with programming from Glasgow and Edinburgh which are equally as remote.

The Ofcom ruling states: “Ofcom is requiring enhanced coverage of Scottish affairs in the area covered by ITV’s 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.

“That programming may be shared with the other Channel 3 licensees in Scotland.

“ITV must now provide separate transmissions for the two parts of the Border region, so that viewers in England can continue to see network programming.

“The current requirements for regional programming in central and northern Scotland will be maintained.”

It adds: “The referendum on the future of Scotland due next year highlights the particular need to ensure that viewers in all parts of Scotland are adequately served by programming of particular relevance to them.”

The change will be “more expensive on a per capita basis than most other ITV regions”, but not disproportionately so, Ofcom concludes.

The watchdog’s research found that the primary cause of dissatisfaction with Lookaround was that it was felt to cover too large an area to bring “an acceptable frequency or depth of local or regional news coverage deemed relevant to each location”.

ITV’s analysis of Scottish responses states: “There was negligible spontaneous mention of a lack of specifically Scottish news as a cause for dissatisfaction with the bulletin.

“Scottish participants’ expectations of - and subsequent disappointment with - the bulletin tended to be concerned with provision of news about their own local area and region, not about Scottish national issues.

“The research noted that ‘for most, the concern remained that the bulletin would be dominated by Edinburgh and Glasgow to the detriment of coverage of their own area, as it was currently dominated by the cities of north-east England and/or Carlisle’.”