UTV and NWN form Welsh news consortia pilot bid

Northern Ireland’s ITV franchise, UTV, has forged a partnership with publisher NWN Media to bid for the chance to run a pilot project in Wales aimed at replacing current ITV regional news programming.

The Irish broadcaster and the publisher behind Wrexham’s Leader newspaper will apply for around £7m from the government to run the Independently Funded News Consortium (IFNC) pilot in Wales.

Welsh independent producer Tinopolis has already thrown its hat into the ring for the pilot in Wales, which is aimed at finding a permanent replacement for current regional news service provided by ITV.

Three IFNCs are being created by the government in Wales, Scotland and the Tyne Tees and Border area to develop sustainable multi-platform regional news.

As well as broadcasting on the regional news slots on Channel 3, the consortia will be expected to provide increased local news using multimedia technology.

The partnership between UTV and NWN aims to “create a dynamic cross-platform news force for Wales, delivering content for television, radio, newspaper and online services branded as Wales Live.”

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced last month 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 be launched ahead of a planned national roll-out in 2013. It has appointed an independent panel to oversee the tendering and evaluation process.

Michael Wilson, managing director of UTV, said his partnership had established a website waleslive.tv so members of the public could tell the partnership what it wanted from the proposed pilot.

David Faulkner, managing director of NWN Media, said: “Our daily and weekly print titles already have a reputation for excellent grass roots content and a genuine local relevance in the towns and villages they serve.

“We believe in a modern multi-platform journalism that can keep those communities informed but also one that reflects the character and tradition of those communities.

“This partnership will reflect this ethos while at the same time offering content of unrivalled depth and range across all media.”

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