Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 11:12 UK

Anger over news merger acceptance

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Ofcom has accepted the case for a newsroom merger

Proposals to merge ITV news services covering southern Scotland with those in north east England have been branded a "complete disgrace" by politicians.

A report by media regulator Ofcom has accepted the case for the move.

The Tyne Tees and Border merger would see an average of six minutes a day dedicated to south of Scotland news.

SNP MSP Christine Grahame described it as "tokenistic" while Tory counterpart John Lamont said it was a "complete failure" to recognise public opinion.

Last year ITV unveiled plans to reduce its number of regional newsrooms from 17 to nine.

This was subsequently revised to suggest "sub-regional" services for Cumbria, south of Scotland and Tyne Tees.

As we witnessed during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, our local news can be a lifeline
John Lamont MSP

Six minutes of content in ITV's 1800 news programme and nine minutes of the post-News at Ten bulletin would be sub-regional.

Opponents to the plan have voiced concerns at the loss of the current half-hour bulletin in the Border TV area which covers southern Scotland and Cumbria.

Ofcom has said it accepts the case for changing the way news is covered in the region and a merger between Border and Tyne Tees.

Its report states: "This will include separate 15-minute sections in the main Lookaround weekday programme for viewers in either area, together with separate late-evening bulletins.

"ITV have given a commitment to include an average of six minutes of Scottish news within the 15-minute section.

"The Border and Tyne Tees programmes may be 'hubbed' from studios in Gateshead."

'Rural community'

Ofcom said the proposals balanced the financial pressures on ITV with audience demand for regional programmes.

However, local politicians have criticised the report.

Mr Lamont said: "What ITV, and now Ofcom, fail to understand is that the Borders is a very rural community with many households unable to get access to the internet and broadband services.

"Without their local TV news, there are very few alternatives for people to get information about their local community on a daily basis.

In reality, these proposals from Ofcom effectively spell the end of local television news covering issues in the Scottish Borders
Christine Grahame MSP

"As we witnessed during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001, our local news can be a lifeline."

The view was echoed by Ms Grahame who described the proposals as a "complete disgrace".

"Given the geographical spread across the south of Scotland, Borderers will be lucky if they get two minutes per day in local television news," she said.

"In reality, these proposals from Ofcom effectively spell the end of local television news covering issues in the Scottish Borders."

Dumfriesshire Conservative MP David Mundell said Ofcom had failed to stand up for the interests of the public.

He said it had "simply ignored" the wishes of people in the south of Scotland.

Labour MP for Dumfries and Galloway Russell Brown said the region would become a "brief add-on" to news from Newcastle under the plans.

"I will continue to fight these proposals, and highlight to ITV and Ofcom that they are extremely unpopular in Dumfries and Galloway," he said.

Ofcom's consultation on its report closes on 4 December with a final statement due in early 2009.


SEE ALSO
ITV 'can cut' regional programmes
25 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
Politicians criticise news merger
26 Jun 08 |  South of Scotland
ITV to merge regional newsrooms
12 Sep 07 |  Business

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