STV Opting-out Policy Again Subject of Fierce Debate

Scottish broadcaster, STV, is again defending its policy of opting out of the broadcasting of some ITV programmes intended for an UK-wide audience.

This time, it follows a Q&A in the current edition of the TV listings magazine, Radio Times, featuring the managing director of broadcasting and regulatory affairs at the Glasgow-based broadcaster. BBC Scotland reports the story on its own website, noting: “Mr Hain, who was answering questions from Radio Times readers, said STV's schedule was 'relevant and affordable'. He added that more than 95 per cent of STV's peaktime schedule was made up of ITV network content.”

STV has been under attack for its decision to drop ITV1's costume drama Downton Abbey, and other ITV drama shows including Doc Martin, Marple and Midsomer Murders.

Although Freeview users in Scotland are unable to watch such programmes, those with satellite and cable can view them on ITV1 London.

Continues the BBC website: “STV said it had increased the amount of Scottish programming – arguing it makes more than the BBC in part because it provides localised news services for different parts of the country.” It adds that TV would like to produce a long-running soap opera again. Its last soap, High Road, ended several years ago. 

It continues: “It is unclear how many Scots may be watching Downton Abbey on ITV1 London which is shown on Sky 993, Freesat 977 and Virgin 853. However, figures last year suggested more than 100,000 people were using this method to watch the network dramas which STV decides not to show.”

On Monday, the Scottish Daily Express reported: “According to the figures, the ITV premiere of Downton Abbey on September 26 attracted almost eight million viewers – equivalent to a 30 per cent audience share.

“However, in Scotland, just 17 per cent of the audience tuned in to A Scot in the Arctic, a documentary featuring Billy Connolly, adding up to a potential ‘loss’ of 273,000 viewers.”

In its leader, the paper commented: “New figures suggest that Scots television viewers are increasingly turning off STV when our homegrown station chooses to shun big budget shows being screened across the rest of the I TV network.

“This newspaper’s letters page has reflected the degree of anger felt by many forced to miss recent episodes of popular period drama, Downton Abbey.

“A complicated legal fight is at the root of STV’s troubled relationship with ITV, but viewers in Scotland do not care about this.

“It can only be matter of time before advertisers follow the viewers and find an alternative place to spend their money.”

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