The Tyne Tees and Borders television region has been selected as the first of government’s regional broadcast news consortia pilot schemes.
The Department for Culture Media and Sport is now seeking bidders to take up the provision of broadcast journalism outside the BBC for the region.
In last week’s Digital Economy Bill the Government set in place the framework for new independent consortia to take over regional broadcast news when ITV withdraws from this sector after 2010.
The Government has said the new services will be paid for using up to £130m a year of BBC licence fee cash which is currently allocated to help pay for digital TV switch over.
This pilot region will be in addition pilot schemes in Scotland and Wales.
The DCMS said today “the consortia will be expected to provide increased local news using multimedia technology”.
Culture secretary Ben Bradshaw said: “It is clear that people want high quality local news from more than one source. The huge increase in viewers and readers seeking information about the terrible floods in Cumbria over the last week is a clear demonstration of that. Its importance to local democracy, coupled with the acute challenge being faced by commercial news companies, means there is a need for Government support. These three pilot programmes are a key step to preserving the long term future of regional news.
‘As well as providing a good mix of urban and rural areas, holding a pilot that spans the Tyne Tees and Borders regions will improve the current provision of regional news in the Scottish Borders and English Borders by having a far more localised news service, which the audience wants. The Scottish borders could get a wholly Scottish regional news service and the English borders area could see a more local and regional news service.
‘In return for public investment, the successful bidders for each of the three pilots must demonstrate innovation and commitment to deliver trustworthy news on a variety of different platforms.”
Interested parties wishing to bid for one of these pilot schemes have until 11 December to levy expressions of interest and until 30 December to submit the final pre qualification questionnaire which will be assessed by published criteria early in the New Year.
All three pilots are expected to be up and running in 2010.