Pilot schemes for news consortia to take over the provision of regional broadcast news outside the BBC are set to begin in April this year, the DCMS confirmed this week following the completion of its consultation.
The pilots will go ahead in Scotland, Wales and an English region.
According to The Guardian: “Although not mentioned in the consultation response it is thought that the government is also considering a fourth ‘hyper-local’ news pilot scheme.”
Despite strong opposition from the BBC, the government has said that top slicing the BBC licence fee will fund the pilots.
It remains to be seen whether there is time for the news consortia plan to get up and running before time runs out, in May, for the Labour government. The Tories have said they are opposed to the news consortia plan.
In its response to the consultation, the DCMS said: “The Government remains convinced that sustaining plurality of voices in news in the Nations, locally and in the regions will require public funding.
“Following the findings of the public consultation and BMRB’s independent market research, the Government’s preference for the long-term remains to maintain, in the next Television Licence Fee settlement, the contained element of the television licence fee that is currently not used for BBC content and services, in order to support plurality of news sources in the Nations, locally and in the regions, as laid out in the Digital Britain White Paper. This is supported by both audiences and industry.”
The timetable it sets out is as follows:
The planned process and timetable for implementing the pilots between now and a national roll-out in 2013 is summarised as follows:
– DCMS to appoint an independent selection panel later this month who will oversee the tendering and evaluation process.
– A pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) to follow later this month (November) inviting bids from Scotland and Wales.
– A decision on the English region to host the pilot to be made by Christmas.
– The panel to select bidders to go forward to the second stage after Christmas with the submission of final tenders by the end of February 2010.
– The selection panel to then evaluate the bids and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State on three winning bids in Scotland, Wales and the English region in March 2010.
– Contracts and launch of the pilots then follow.