Concerns that STV has breached broadcasting regulations by cosying up too closely with the Scottish Government have been escalated today, following further revelations by the Scottish Sunday Express newspaper.
Two weeks ago, the paper sparked a flurry of media stories by alleging the Scottish Government – via sponsorship – had begun influencing programming on STV. Resulting in broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, announcing an investigation into the claims, the paper is today saying that STV bosses – such as head of content, Alan Clements, and director of broadcast services, Bobby Hain – were guests at a Scottish Government reception last summer.
In addition, the paper is also claiming First Minister, Alex Salmond, 'schmoozing' BBC Scotland executives.
In total, the Scottish Sunday Express, devotes part of its front page, a two-page feature, a leader comment and an opinion piece by the Tories' Annabel Goldie to the story.
Says the paper: “Two week ago, this newspaper published Freedom of Information documents detailing secret meetings between Alex Salmond and STV chief executive, Rob Woodward, who promised to work 'for the benefit of the Government'.”
It adds – when detailing the Ofcom investigation: “Ofcom rules state 'a sponsor must not influence the content and/or scheduling of a channel or programme in such a way as to impair the responsibility and editorial independence of the broadcaster'.”
As part of a policy that has seen various opt-outs from the ITV, UK-wide schedule, STV last year broadcast three programmes – Made in Scotland, Scotland Revealed and the five-part The Greatest Scot – with help from sponsorship from the Government's tourism initiative, Homecoming Scotland.
On Wednesday, STV is part of a consortium – also comprising ITN and Bauer Media – making a scheduled final presentation to win the right to run an UK Government-funded TV news programme on channel 3 in Scotland.
Up against one rival bid – including newspaper publishers, Herald & Times Group, Johnston Press and DC Thomson, but, interestingly, not Express Newspapers – the consortium involving STV is hoping to win a so-called Independently Funded News Consortium, scheduled to operate as a pilot project in Scotland over the next two years, notwithstanding Tory opposition.
The judging panel, appointed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is being advised by Ofcom.