The chances of the south of Scotland getting its own, dedicated TV channel within twelve months has increased within the last few days from ‘50-50 to 70 per cent’ – according to an advocate of local television.
Says Dave Ruston, the director of the Edinburgh-based Institute of Local Television, the increased possibility of a channel called South of Scotland TV (and serving the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway) follows a private meeting, held in Glasgow on Thursday, when the Westminster culture secretary, Andy Burnham, addressed senior TV executives, including from BBC Scotland and Channel 4.
Explained Rushton: “Andy Burnham was as enthusiastic to urge local TV, newspapers and radio to work collaboratively as he was for the BBC and STV to do so, wanting to secure future pubic service broadcasting and content on a local as well as regional scale.
“Local TV won’t be universally available in rural areas without government support for news and transmission costs. With the Secretary of State’s favourable intervention, I’d say the chances of South of Scotland TV becoming a reality have moved up from 50-50 to a 70 per cent chance.”
He imagined a South of Scotland TV channel being able to broadcast for about two hours per day, with news provided by local newspapers.
The south of Scotland possibly being the first region in Scotland to get its own local TV channel is a reflection of the Scottish Borders being the first region in the UK to have its analogue TV signal switched off, meaning everyone having to access digital TV to watch any TV channel. ‘Digital switchover’ in the Scottish Borders will be completed by July.
Rushton has estimated that – because digital TV uses up less ‘spectrum’ than analogue – once digital switchover has been completed across Scotland (by 2011), there will be enough freed-up spectrum to offer as many as 16 local public service TV channels.
Rushton has been advising the group behind South of Scotland TV – the South of Scotland Alliance – comprising Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council and Scottish Enterprise (South). The Alliance has been looking at the feasibility of South of Scotland TV, not least as a means of disseminating information.
As part of the business case provided to broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, the group has been talking to local media, including local newspapers, to see how they could work with, rather than in competition to, local TV.
He says it would initially cost