An expected bid, from three of Scotland's biggest newspaper publishers – to run a publicly-funded TV news pilot in Scotland, on channel 3 – has been submitted today. It follows, by a matter of hours, the submission of a rival bid, involving current news provider on the channel, STV.
This latest bid is from the Scottish News Consortium, comprising newspaper publishers DC Thomson, the Herald & Times Group and Johnston Press plus television producer Tinopolis's Mentorn Scotland subsidiary, which – among other programmes – makes BBC television's Question Time from its Glasgow base.
The SNC is competing with the Scottish News Network, which submitted its bid earlier today and which, as well as involving STV, also comprises ITN and Bauer Media, which operates numerous commercial radio stations in Scotland. Up for grabs is millions of pounds, from the government, over a two-year period.
No other bids have been submitted. DC Thomson publishes The Sunday Post, among others. Ditto The Scotsman for Johnston Press and The Herald for the Herald & Times Group.
Says SNC: “[Our] 250-page tender showcases the consortium's innovative plans to twin television and the web under the ScotlandFirst brand and bring a whole new formula for news and debate to the Scottish people.”
Adds SNC chair, Mark Wood: “The four consortium members have worked together very effectively to create a compelling and exciting bid. This would transform the way Scottish news is covered on television, building on the nationwide newsgathering network of the three newspaper groups.
“It would also create a ground-breaking model for integrated television and internet news which would make Scotland a global leader.”
Representatives from both SNN and SNC will be questioned a week on Wednesday by a selection panel – chosen by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – headed by Richard Hooper, former vice-chair of media regulator, Ofcom.
The fate of the public funding hinges on the outcome of the General Election. Labour are committed to the funding scheme if they win, but the Conservatives have pledged to scrap it if they win. It is not clear what happens with a hung parliament.
Were it to survive the outcome of the General Election, the pilot – and similar initiatives being set up for Wales and Tyne Tees/Border – would replace STV's current news output. The pilots are being created as a response to it becoming increasingly unviable – from an advertising revenue point of view – for the likes of STV to run a TV news service, as part of its licence operator obligations.
DCMS plan to announce a preferred bidder on the 25th of this month and then the winner will then negotiate separate contracts with DCMS and also STV as the channel 3 broadcast licence holder. STV will broadcast the output – as part of its licence obligations – no matter whether the so-called Independently Funded News Consortia contract is won by SNC or SNN, which it is part of.