Page last updated at 20:16 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 21:16 UK

Q&A: News fund for Wales

The UK Government has announced there will be independently funded news consortia set up in some parts of the UK to ensure plurality of news providers.

This is what is known about the plan for an Independently Funded News Consortium (INFC) for Wales.

Will Wales be a pilot area?

Yes. The UK Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has confirmed in the House of Commons (as detailed in the Digital Britain report) that Wales will be one of three pilot areas in which INFC will be road-tested from next year. The others will be in Scotland and in one English region.

What will be the cost of the pilot?

This will be between £4-7m (ITV Wales claim that they currently spend £5m on their news provision) .

Who would the INFC be?

The consortia in Wales will need to meet some essential criteria; including being either an existing news provider with an established audience, a local newspaper or radio station (e.g. Media Wales/Trinity Mirror or Real Radio), a media production company or other broadcast, local television or multi-media company with a track record of delivering news or current affairs (Tinopolis or Green Bay) or a combination of these - as long as they could meet financial, integrity and compliance tests.

There could also be a bid from a kind of "former ITV Wales News" group (with individuals providing the news independently to the ITV franchise) or from an established existing UK television news provider such as ITN, Sky or the Press Association.

There may even be a completely new outfit set up specifically to bid for the money.

Where does this leave S4C's idea of helping provide news on ITV Wales?

Although this idea was rejected by the assembly's culture committee it is not dismissed or supported in Digital Britain although the report recognises that S4C "has already done work to develop a related initiative".

That work was in S4C's submission to the the Digital Britain report team in which they offered to work on a "news pilot" which would be overseen by their governing body the S4C Authority. Their plan was that following a tendering process they would appoint a news provider for English-language news to run on ITV Wales and on broadband.

This has not been endorsed by Digital Britain -- but the report still does leave the door open for some kind of S4C involvement in an INFC.

This could for example be as a consortium partner providing infrastructure, delivery mechanism, office back up etc or maybe in a much more central role.

What about Welsh-language television news?

This has not been looked at by Digital Britain - but any kind of S4C involvement in the INFC may lead to a wider debate about where it receives its own news from.

When will this happen?

The objective is to have the pilots in place from 2010 and run until 2012. Other IFNCs will be rolled out across the UK beyond this period until at least 2014 when the current ITV licences expire.

Will the INFC be able to raise money through advertising?

Digital Britain states that the UK Government and Ofcom will examine "whether advertising minutage or other revenue-raising opportunities should be made available to the IFNCs in the Channel 3 regional news slots, to provide a supplementary stream of commercial income" i.e. there may be an opportunity for the winning consortium to sell ads within its own programming (or sponsorship of the weather?) with the revenue going to them and not to ITV Wales.

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