Liberal Democrat culture, media and sport spokesman Don Foster has criticised the conservative plan to scrap the Independently Funded News Consortia pilot scheme saying the Tories media policy could not be trusted.
Conservative shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt used his speech to the Oxford Media Convention yesterday to signal the Tories’ intention to torpedo plans for a system of IFNC to replace ITV news in the British regions with money possibly provided from part of the license fee.
Last night, Foster condemned the Tories vision to instead introduce a series of city-based TV franchises without any public support.
He said: “The Tories’ blind faith in the markets misses the point on media. It isn’t good enough to simply deregulate and hope the market will make everything better.
“If independent local and regional news providers are to survive they will require active support from Government.”
The Conservatives favour the deregulation of cross-media ownership rules at a local level as a way to foster development of local TV news services.
Hunt has also suggested yesterday the Tories would create space for a new national network to provide prime time viewing for local TV affiliates as a way of further reducing costs.
He said: “Let me be clear. We do not support these [IFNC] provisions in the Digital Economy Bill. And we do not support the pilot schemes.
“The contracts are not due to be signed until May. Anyone looking to sign one should understand that we’ll do all we can to legally unpick them if David Cameron enters Number 10. And if they haven’t been signed, we won’t be doing so.
“This is because we want to see the emergence of a radically different, improved and forward-looking local media sector.
“Not just local TV, where we are about the only major developed country not to have proper city-based TV franchises. But profitable, hungry and ambitious local radio, local newspapers and local websites as well.”