Trinity Mirror, PA and Ten Alps bid for NE consortia pilot

Three media companies have formed a consortium to bid for a pilot project to replace the ITV regional news service in the north-east of England.

Regional media publisher Trinity Mirror, the UK’s national news agency the Press Association and online TV production firm Ten Alps will press the government for the North East to be chosen as the English pilot region in which to run an independent regional news consortia on ITV.

If successful, the pilot would replace the ITV Tyne Tees regional news service and its daily bulletin, North East Tonight.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced earlier this week that a series of pilot news consortiums, with the eventual aim of taking over the provision of regional broadcast news outside the BBC, would launch in April next year.

Despite strong opposition from the BBC, the government has said that top slicing the BBC licence fee could eventually fund the establishment of news consortia across the country if the pilots prove successful.

DCMS said pilots will go ahead in Scotland, Wales and an English region – ahead of a planned national roll-out in 2013 – and it would appoint an independent panel later this month to oversee the tendering and evaluation process.

Several media businesses, including Herald and Times in Glasgow and Guardian Media Group, have already expressed an interest in running a pilot scheme elsewhere in the country.

Earlier this week, Welsh independent producer Tinopolis threw its hat into the ring for the pilot in Wales, but PA, Ten Alps and Trinity Mirror are the first to go public with firm plans for an English pilot since DCMS finalised the scheme earlier this week.

Trinity Mirror already has a strong foothold in the region, publishing Newcastle’s Evening Chronicle and The Journal newspapers, Teesside’s Evening Gazette and the region’s own Sunday title, the Sunday Sun.

The Press Association also has a significant presence locally as its training facility is based in Newcastle.

Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror chief executive, said: “The North East region is home to 2.4 million adults meaning it is large enough to host a fully robust pilot of scale, while also being compact enough to launch quickly and cost effectively.

“The area is highly representative of Britain with its mix of urban centres and rural communities.

“We are convinced that our plans for the North East are the ideal blueprint and will offer crucial learning experiences to the industry ahead of the full national roll-out of local news consortia.”

The consortium said it had been in discussion with a number of other organisations in the North East and would announce additional partners soon.

Tony Watson, Press Association managing director, said: “One of the essential criteria being stipulated by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is that the pilot must go live quickly and deliver an enhanced offering across not just TV but also digital platforms – and all within a very tight timeframe.

“The advantage the North East has over other regions is that it is the right size to allow for swift development of the multi-layered service the DCMS is seeking.

“With the consortium partners we have in place, we believe we can launch an innovative new service in the North East fast, and to a high standard.”

A decision on the English pilot is to be made by Christmas with the preferred bidders in Wales and Scotland to be outlined later.

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