Viewers in the Border region want local news


Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has given Ofcom the go-ahead for the renewal of Channel 3 services.  New licences will be issued before the current ones expire in 2014, the year in which Scotland’s independence referendum will take place.

Ms Miller’s decision has particular relevance in Scotland where the long-standing Channel 3 incumbent, STV, covers most of the country’s population.  ITV supplies news to the Border region and in arrangements dating from 2009, the footprint was extended to the Tyne Tees region. The current set-up, which is now to continue, is a legacy of the old ITV regional system that dates from the 1950s.

Ofcom’s advice about licensing was delivered to the Secretary of State in May 2012.

She has opted for the status quo and it is now clear that were the border to become an international frontier after 2014, at least some of the news supplied daily to the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway will still come from England – at least, until 2024.

We can gain some insights into the complexity of Border audiences from an interesting report just released by Ofcom. It is based on deliberative research in four locations across the border, three in Scotland (Galashiels, Stranraer and Dumfries), one in England (Penrith). There were 24 participants divided into four groups. It is a tiny number and at best the findings can be be indicative. But the study is worth reading, not least because it tries to grapple with the diversity of localism.

Viewers in the ITV Border region seem to be overwhelmingly concerned with receiving news about their immediate localities and nearby regions. Pan-Scottish news – supplied via the BBC’s Reporting Scotland -  is firmly distinguished from this kind of demand. So the dissatisfactions that exist are focused on the ITV Border/Tyne Tees news – Lookaround – which is seen having too little relevance and as being skewed towards large urban centres, notably Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Carlisle. But there appears to be little demand for a pan-Scottish Channel 3 news in the area.