Page last updated at 13:42 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 14:42 UK

Uncertainty over bid for STV news

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STV may still keep on providing Scottish news using its own money

A newspaper consortium bid to run the news on STV may be in doubt after it emerged the group will not be able to sign a contract until after 16 April.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has told Scottish News Consortium (SNC) it will not sign the deal, as planned, on Monday.

If the election campaign is under way by 16 April it could delay signing further until after 6 May.

The Conservatives have said they would scrap the scheme if elected.

SNC, which was awarded the subsidised two-year pilot for STV news last week, is made up of DC Thomson, the Herald and Times Group, Johnston Press and Tinopolis.

If an incoming government were to drop the proposal, it is possible that STV itself may keep on providing the Scottish news using its own money, although many journalists believe there would have to be significant cuts.

STV had argued that it would not make economic sense to continue to pay for regional news itself after 2011, so asked for public money.

'Scotland First'

Traditionally it had subsidised its news operation using money earned by more profitable programmes.

The UK government agreed to fund pilot schemes, paid for with TV Licence money, in the STV area and three other Channel 3 regions.

However, the newspaper consortium SNC - branded Scotland First - defeated STV's own bid.

STV has said it would engage with the group to make sure its viewers continued to receive high quality Scottish news.

If the scheme goes ahead, Scotland First's service could replace the existing STV news later this year.

Staff who transfer to the new operator would be protected by the usual regulations on pay and conditions.

But it is still unclear whether Scotland First would want all the current staff or who they would want in on-screen roles.

The Conservatives are against using public money to provide news programmes on Channel 3.

Instead they would like to see local TV stations established across the UK, with no need for a continuing subsidy.

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