Winning IFNC broadcast news pilot bids revealed

The Government has today named the Scottish News Consortium, Wales Live and News 3 as the winning bids to run the three independently funded news consortia pilots in Scotland, Wales and the Tyne Tees/Border region in England.

The Scottish News Consortium – a group consisting of Johnston Press, Herald and Times Group, and D C Thomson along with independent TV production company Tinopolis – was named as the preferred bidder in Scotland.

Wales Live – a collaboration between UTV, the current Channel 3 licence holder in Northern Ireland and regional publisher NWN Media – was selected for the Welsh pilot.

News 3 – a consortium lead by Trinity Mirror with the Press Association and independent TV production company Ten Alps – was named as the partnership to run the remaining pilot in the Tyne Tees/Border region.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said today the IFNCs will receive Government funding totalling £47 million over two years to provide local news content across the web, mobile, and other new platforms, along with the television slot currently occupied by ITV and STV regional news.

Funding comes from a £130m under-spend in the licence fee which had been set aside for the digital switchover help scheme.

Each pilot scheme will take over ITV local broadcast news services and possibly pave the way for a nationwide roll-out of the scheme; however the Conservatives have said that they would do everything they can to scrap the project if elected.

An independent selection panel appointed by the DCMS selected the three preferred bidders from a shortlist of eight.

Richard Hooper, chair of the panel, said: “The overall quality of the submissions was high with companies both big and small working together.

“Bidders understood the implications of convergence, demonstrating how television, local newspapers, the internet, local radio could work together in new and interesting ways.”

The DCMS outlined the key features that drew them to particular bids. It said News 3 was selected for the English region pilot as it offered a “unique model for the future provision of local and regional news across different media platforms” and offered a “completely new multi-platform studio based at the Newcastle Chronicle offices”.

UTV’s strong track record in Northern Ireland gave it “credibility to a clear vision for an innovative community-based approach in conjunction with citizen journalists and its newspaper partner, NWN Media” in the Welsh bid, the DCMS said.

SNC’s bid was praised for its “imaginative and innovative cross-platform approach to news provision” as it set out a plan for a web portal to 130 local newspaper partner websites and represented a “clear sense of public value associated with a credible news alternative to the BBC in Scotland”.

Hooper added: “In Wales and Scotland, in addition to strong proposals for regional, local and hyperlocal/community news, the bidders put forward credible ideas for quality news for those nations which is urgently needed as a result of devolution.

“We asked for innovation and were not disappointed. We asked bidders also to think about longer term sustainability without public funds.

“Given the political uncertainties surrounding IFNCs, my colleagues and I were particularly impressed by the sustained enthusiasm and resource commitment of the bidders and the momentum that has built up to deliver innovative multi-platform multi-layered news.”

Reserve bidders were also announced for each region. They were the Scottish News Network – a partnership between STV, ITN, and Bauer Radio; Great North News – a partnership between ITN, Johnston Press, Newsquest, Bauer Media, and University of Sunderland – for the English pilot and TV production company Tinopolis in Wales.

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