Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 17:06 UK

STV 'might drop more ITV output'

 Inspector Smith, played by Alex Walkinshaw
The Bill is one of ITV's best rated programmes

Scottish broadcaster STV has said it may drop more ITV1 programmes, following a decision not to show most of the network's drama.

STV has already dropped police series The Bill and will not show several other big series this autumn.

ITVplc - which runs the ITV1 network in England, Wales and the Borders - and STV have been in dispute over the cost of the network schedule.

Viewers with satellite or cable tv can still watch ITV1 if they prefer.

However, STV is the only option for people with analogue tv or Freeview.

ITVplc claims it subsidises STV - STV insists the opposite is true.

It has been reported that ITVplc has been considering whether to take legal action against STV over its contribution to the cost of network programmes which it decided not to screen.

Viewers have built up a long term relationship with ITV programmes and it will take a bit of time to get used to some of the decisions we have made
Bobby Hain

STV acknowledged it had saved money by dropping some network programmes but said it was also investing money in new Scottish programmes.

Speaking to the industry magazine Broadcast, STV's director of regulatory affairs Bobby Hain said: "We are very committed to being part of the Channel 3 network, but we need to be in a position where we are running STV on our terms, with a mix of original, network and acquired programmes.

"Yes, through opting out we are saving money, but we are also spending more money locally.

"Viewers have built up a long term relationship with ITV programmes and it will take a bit of time to get used to some of the decisions we have made."

Mr Hain said all genres of network programming would be examined and STV would opt out where it thought it could offer a greater public service broadcast value or something more popular.

Mixed ratings

Some of STV's own programmes - such as the recent documentary series Made in Scotland - have won ratings as good as, or better than, those that would have been expected from the network programme they replaced.

But other schedule changes have had mixed results in ratings terms.

STV has also bought in programmes from other companies, for instance RTE in Ireland, to reduce its dependency on the ITV1 network schedule.

STV logo
STV has now dropped several ITV dramas from its schedule

Some industry observers believe STV may be insuring itself against a future where ITV1 might be easily and openly available in Scotland in direct competition with the Scottish station.

ITVplc is known to be assessing whether or not to pull out of the Channel 3 network - which means its own ITV1 channel is only available in England, Wales and the Borders - and broadcast directly to the whole of the United Kingdom in the same way as most other commercial broadcasters. This could happen within two to three years.

But if ITV did this it might lose its prominent position in third place on electronic programme guides. Viewers who receive their signal from local relay transmitters may also lose ITV1.

However around 90% of the UK population would still be able to watch ITV1 through a normal aerial - while the remainder could still watch on satellite or cable.

If ITVplc pulled out of the Channel 3 network, STV would still provide the Channel 3 service in Central and Northern Scotland but would probably lose programmes such as The X Factor, Emmerdale and Coronation Street.

Some observers believe STV could survive such a blow if it gradually starts to re-position itself as a purely Scottish channel in complete control of its own schedule.

STV will publish its latest financial results on Thursday and is also expected to comment on how the TV advertising market is currently performing.

All the main commercial broadcasters have seen advertising fall badly over the past 18 months.

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