South of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine has urged regulators to go back to the drawing board and put in place plans for a Channel 3 station serving the whole of Scotland.
In a her response to Ofcom’s consultation for new ITV licences from 2015, the SNP MSP says that an all-Scotland service providing distinctive Scottish programming in areas such as politics, sport, entertainment and culture would be the best option.
At present, viewers across a vast area of the South of Scotland from Eyemouth to Stranraer receive their Channel 3 programmes from ITV Border, with a production centre based in Gateshead.
The franchise also serves much of Cumbria and means that viewers in its Scottish transmission area receive virtually no dedicated news, current affairs or sports programming from the rest of Scotland.
Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:
“My preference is for an all Scotland licence. Scotland is a country with its own parliament, legal system and institutions such as health, education and environmental agencies.
“The people of the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway are part of the country of Scotland and have played – and continue to play – an important part of shaping that country.
“I believe that Ofcom is wrong to restrict the options to just two - those defined by ITV. However if forced to chose, option two is by far the more attractive option.”
“Option one does little more than return to the situation that persisted before the merger of Border and Tyne Tees. It does little more than reinstate the old “Lookaround”, which, according to research carried out before the Border Tyne Tees merger, 70% of people were not happy with.
“Whilst ITV seem to suggest that this option would be disproportionately expensive, Ofcom’s impact assessment suggests that Option 2 could be equivalent or cheaper than Option 1and it would only be splitting the Border digital terrestrial transmission between English and Scottish portions that would increase the material cost.
“However, I strongly believe that this cost is necessary, both to recognise the distinctiveness of Scotland as a nation and to meet the particular requirements of our small rural communities.
“I would urge ITV to enter into talks with STV and the Scottish government to examine what needs to be done regarding the costs of infrastructure improvements.”