We've not killed Bill, protest STV bosses

IT WAS a decision which led many to reach for the remote control and change channels. But STV are now considering bringing back hit shows such as The Bill, following complaints from viewers.

While defending Scottish Television's new strategy of ditching popular network drama in favour of home-grown programmes, Rob Woodward, the chief executive of STV, said yesterday that shows which were the former staple of TV schedules may yet return to Scottish screens.

In recent months, STV has refused to screen popular ITV dramas such as Doc Martin and Midsomer Murders in order to save money and provide slots for new Scottish programmes. That has led to complaints from viewers and a 38 million lawsuit from ITV.

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However, at a press conference yesterday to unveil STV's autumn schedule, Mr Woodward said the programme cuts were not final and would be reviewed. In the future, hit network dramas could be shown on STV in a different time slot.

He said: "We have been very careful not to make strident announcements and so we will remain open-minded about what the schedule looks like. In the future, you may have hit shows both on STV and ITV but they might not be shown at the same time. That is the level of refinement that we are working towards."

Asked if they would consider bringing back shows such as The Bill, he said: "Yes, we will. We have a very open mind about what the schedule will look like."

Bobby Hain, STV's managing director of broadcasting, said: "We have never said we are never going to consider these programmes again. It's not a final decision."

STV has already seen its average daily audience drop by 12 per cent in the past year, losing viewers at more than double the rate of ITV. In recent weeks, it has defended renewed claims that its Scottish substitutes are faring poorly with viewers who have the digital choice of switching to the main ITV station.

Yesterday, Mr Woodward said STV hopes to secure funding to produce a one-hour six o'clock news programme for Scotland, estimated to cost around 15m a year.

An Ofcom Scotland spokesman said they had received 30 complaints to date about STV opting out of the ITV network.

Robert Beveridge, a lecturer in media policy at Edinburgh Napier University, said: "STV's decision to make and broadcast more programmes for and about Scotland and the Scottish perspective on the world is deserving of our full support."

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Charles Fletcher, head of industry development firm Caledonia Media, said: "

STV actually responded to what viewers and the industry has called for over many years – more locally produced programmes about Scotland.

"Perhaps ITV can learn some lessons from the way this has been handled in Glasgow. They may wish they had such a strong management team running their business."

War and emotional peace at centre of STV's winter schedule

SCOTS at War, a three-part documentary series about soldiers in Afghanistan, is at the heart of STV's new winter schedule unveiled yesterday.

The documentary follows soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland during the vicious fighting in Helmand province over the summer months, as well as examining the role of Scots soldiers in history.

Other highlights include The Search for Sherlock Holmes, which will follow David Hayman, the actor and TV policeman, as he goes on the trail of the world's most famous detective. The documentary will be part of a Sherlock Holmes evening.

The broadcaster will also tackle the issue of mental health in a revealing six-part series, Make Me Happier – presented by Lorraine Kelly – in which a group of Scots with emotional health issues attempt to improve their lives.

After the controversy of denying Scots viewers network drama, STV will offer them a series unavailable on the network. Underbelly is a hit Australian drama about a spate of infamous gangland killings in Melbourne and has been described as an Antipodean Sopranos.

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