DCMS names panel to decide news consortia winners

Richard Hooper, the former deputy chairman of Ofcom and chairman of business publisher Informa, will lead the panel charged with overseeing the selection of independently funded news consortia pilots in Scotland, Wales and the Borders region of England.

The panel of six, which includes former Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves, was revealed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport this morning.

Hooper, who recently chaired a review of the postal sector for Lord Mandelson, was selected by Siôn Simon, Minister for the Creative Industries, to oversee the assessment of bids made by media businesses keen to run one of the three pilots.

His panel is charged with making recommendations to the DCMS on which bidders represent the best value for money, offer the greatest innovation and can maximise economic and local media plurality.

Joining Hooper and Reeves on the panel are; Val Atkinson, former deputy head of news with BBC Scotland; Fru Hazlitt, former chief executive of GCap Media; Glyn Mathias, former ITN political editor and inaugural member of the Electoral Commission and William Perrin, founder of Talk About Local and former policy advisor to Tony Blair.

Stewart Purvis, partner for content and standards at Ofcom, will act as an advisor to the group.

Hooper said: “These three pilots will provide us with insights into new ways of providing multi-platform news in the Nations, locally and in the regions.

“The winning news consortia will be encouraged to exploit the wide range of today’s convergent platforms – ITV/Channel 3, the internet, local commercial radio, community radio, local newspapers.

“The winning news consortia will also be seeking to build innovative business models for revenue generation.”

The government announced late last year that it intended to award funding to three pilot schemes in Scotland, Wales and the Scottish Borders region of England to replace broadcast news services currently provided by ITV.

The schemes are to be funded from the section of BBC licence fee currently allocated to digital TV switchover. If successful the pilots may be rolled out across the UK.

Commencement of the pilot project tender process in November led to a flood of submissions from broadcasters, newspaper publishers and press agencies which quickly formed bid partnerships.

For the English pilot, regional publishers Johnston Press and Newsquest joined forces with ITN to battle a rival bid from the Press Association, production company Ten Alps and publisher Trinity Mirror, which as owner of the Birmingham Post was until last month Reeves’ employer.

UTV has also lodged a bid for the English pilot in addition to its partnership with publisher NWN Media to rival independent producer Tinopolis for the Welsh pilot.

The Scottish pilot has attracted intense interest with three major bids led, respectively, by Trinity Mirror, STV and a joint bid by newspaper groups DC Thomson, Herald & Times Group and Johnston Press

Preferred bidders in each of the three pilot regions are due to be selected by the Government in March and the final contracts are set to be awarded in May.

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