MSPs continue fight for improved South of Scotland TV coverage

MSPs Joan McAlpine and Dr Aileen McLeod say it’s unacceptable that residents of Dumfries and Galloway and The Borders will not see STV’s Road to the Referendum at the same time as everyone else in Scotland.

Viewers in the STV area saw the landmark programme’s first instalment at 8pm on Tuesday evening. But those living in the ITV Border region must wait until Thursday when the programme will be broadcast at the later time of 10.35pm.

The SNP MSPs have written to ITV expressing concern at the south being left out of the political debate because of poor TV coverage.

Ms McAlpine said:

“It is important for democracy that viewers in the south of Scotland can access the same coverage of the issues as people in every other part of Scotland. This is a high quality programme that will explain the history of the “Scottish Question” in an accessible way.  Quite rightly, it is broadcast at peak time on STV, but because of the ridiculous situation in the south of the country, it will be crammed into late night schedules later in the week.

“I thought we were making progress when I heard that ITV were taking the STV programme. But the timing is all wrong.”

Ms McAlpine has been campaigning for improved coverage of Scottish and local issues on channel three and lead a debate on the subject in the Scottish Parliament.  As a result ITV has promised to increase its output of Scottish and local news and current affairs, but Ms McAlpine says they have not done enough.

“Health, Education, Housing, Justice and Agriculture are all areas largely devolved to the Scottish Parliament so people need to be well informed, they cannot just rely on the BBC. As we approach the referendum, it is vitally important for democracy that viewers in the south of Scotland can access the same coverage of the issues as people in every other part of Scotland”.”

Ms McAlpine wants to see a Scotland wide channel three licence. Short of that, she wants  ITV to provide transmissions for the Scottish and English parts of the Borders region to ensure each receive more relevant material to their areas.

“As well as the increased local output already proposed by ITV, they could show STV content like Scotland Tonight, which has been a critical and commercial success.”

She added:

“Ofcom’s impact assessment suggests splitting the signal could be equivalent or cheaper than reverting back to the service which existed prior to 2009.   There is a cost but it is necessary, both to recognise the distinctiveness of Scotland as a nation and to meet the needs of our rural communities”.

“I would urge ITV to enter into talks with STV and the Scottish Government to examine what needs to be done regarding the costs of infrastructure improvements”.

Dr McLeod, who has also spoken in debates on the subject at Holyrood, commented:

“The situation with the transmission of the “Road to the Referendum” on ITV Border so much later in the evening than on STV really supports the case that Joan and I have been making that Scotland either needs a single Scotland-wide Channel 3 licence or, at the very least, more Scottish content for viewers in Dumfries & Galloway and the Borders.

“I am pleased that ITV Border will be showing “The Road to the Referendum” and I congratulate them for doing it, but I still believe that a step further is needed.”

doc icon 13.06.05-SNP-MSPs-continue-fight-for-improved-South-of-Scotland-coverage.doc