As the launch of the first local TV service in Scotland fast approaches, South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine will this Thursday lead a debate in the Parliament on fairness in local television.
Members will debate Ms McAlpine’s motion welcoming the establishment of new services for Scotland but expressing concern that they will be disadvantaged by their positioning on the electronic programme guide (EPG).
Whereas in England, new local channels will be provided on channel 8 - in Scotland (and Wales) the services will be on channel 23 of the EPG. This means that Scotland’s new local services will be lower down the EPG listings than shopping, music and movie channels.
STV - which holds the licenses for local services in Glasgow and Edinburgh due to be launched this year - has expressed concern that the lack of prominence for local channels will lead to customer confusion and mean that funds which could be spent producing high quality programmes, will instead have to be used to advertise the existence of the services.
Ms McAlpine commented:
“I am delighted at the prospect of Scotland having its own local TV services – It is certainly something to celebrate. I have been lucky enough to see some of the exciting plans for the Glasgow channel due to launch on the 2nd of June and am very much looking forward to watching GTV.
“However - particularly in this economically fragile climate - I have serious concerns that the feasibility of these new services will be hurt by their low location on the EPG - as resources which would be better invested in content are diverted into promoting awareness of the channel.
“I understand that it is not possible for Scotland to use channel 8 as this slot is currently occupied by BBC Alba and, as a result, channel 23 is the lowest logical channel number (LCN) available. However, the recent announcement that the BBC may drop BBC Three from TV schedules and move it online could provide an opportunity for local television in Scotland and I have written to Digital UK to highlight this.
“It is important that we find a solution to this disparity quickly - as Ofcom are preparing to award licenses for further local services across Scotland including in Ayr in my own South of Scotland region.
“The issue of fairness in the EPG can only be addressed by allocating the same position for all local television throughout the UK and I look forward to highlighting and debating the issue in chamber on Thursday.”
“This debate will involve all political parties in the Scottish Parliament and will be closed by the Scottish Culture Secretary.”
The debate will take place in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday the 29th of May.