Scottish newspaper publishers in broadcast consortia bid

Regional publishers Johnston Press, DC Thompson and Herald & Times Group are mounting a joint bid to run a local news consortia pilot project in Scotland.

During a Q&A session at the RTS conference in Cambridge today Tom Thomson, managing editor of the Glasgow-based Herald & Times Group, told delegates the three newspaper groups would table a bid in the likely event the pilot project was put out for tender later in the year by Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator.

Thomson later told Press Gazette the three newspaper groups had found a video provider to act as a further partner.

He said: “We have been discussing how we can prepare a credible bid for funding along with a video partner, once it becomes clear what the consortia plan is all about and whether the funding is going to be there, the funding is obviously crucial element of this.”

Broadcaster STV has already signalled its desire to run a pilot project to replace its own current channel three news offering in Scotland.

Thomson suggested the agreement between the three big Scottish newspaper publishers could be extended to STV.

He said: “We would like to contest the funding but Rob Woodward [chief executive of STV] wants partners, we have made clear we want partners, so anything is possible.”

Thomson said the project should be run by whichever consortia could best meet Ofcom’s requirement for the service.

“With almost a thousand journalists between the three groups we can certainly bring enhanced localness…everything is so uncertain at the moment it is impossible to predict what will happen but we will be looking at potential partners in the weeks ahead.”

Publication of the Digital Britain white paper in June signalled government backing for a series of independent consortia consisting of local media business to provide a public service news-broadcasting alternative to the BBC across the regions of the UK.

Three pilot projects are likely to be launched next year, one each in England, Wales and Scotland.

Ofcom originally conceived the idea as a partial replacement for channel three local news services after ITV decided to drop its own regional news commitment post 2012.

The broadcast regulator suggested the licence fee paid to the BBC could be top-sliced annually to provide funding for the scheme long term.

Manchester Evening News Media, a division of the Guardian Media Group, has already volunteered to run the English pilot in the North of England.

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