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Ofcom sets out licence terms for ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5
A correction has been made to reflect changes in the news release regarding news minutage in Wales.
Ofcom today set out the terms that will apply to new public service broadcasting licences for ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5.
This forms part of Ofcom’s work to issue new 10-year licences when the current ones expire at the end of 2014. This follows a decision by Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in November 2012, which enables renewal.
In February 2013, Ofcom consulted on the programming obligations of the Channel 3 and Channel 5 licences1, including news and current affairs and original and independent productions. These obligations are designed to provide benefits for TV viewers across the UK, while being financially sustainable for the new licence period.
Ofcom has today announced decisions on revised programming obligations and the methodology for setting financial terms of the new licences for ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5. Decisions on the structure of the regional licensed areas for ITV are also announced.
More localised TV news in the English regions
The decisions Ofcom has taken mean that viewers in many areas will receive TV news that is designed to be more relevant to their local area.
Ofcom has approved proposals for a more localised Channel 3 news service across England. This will see ITV provide regional news in 14 separate news regions compared to the current eight news regions it operates.
In all but two of ITV’s licences, the requirement for a weekday regional news bulletin in the early evening will be reduced from 30 minutes to 20 minutes. However, ITV has told Ofcom that its early evening news bulletins will continue to be 30 minutes long.
Ofcom considers that, in most regions, the benefits to viewers of a more localised news service will more than offset the reduction in the amount of regional news that ITV is required to provide under its licences.
However, Ofcom has rejected ITV’s proposal to apply this reduction to the two largest regions – London and North West England. ITV’s proposals for these areas would have reduced the volume of regional news without providing more localised coverage to benefit viewers.
Therefore, the amount of regional content ITV is required to provide in its weekday early evening news bulletins in these regions will remain at 30 minutes. Ofcom is also requiring 30 minutes of weekday early evening regional news content in the Border region which covers both sides of the England / Scotland border.
These changes, along with reductions in the length of lunchtime, late evening and weekend regional news bulletins in ITV’s English licences2 are intended to help secure sustainable levels of regional programming.
Better serving viewers in the nations
In Scotland, Ofcom is requiring enhanced coverage of Scottish affairs in the area covered by ITV’s Border licence that lies in Scotland to better serve viewers.
In addition to retaining a full 30 minutes of weekday early evening news relevant to the region, Ofcom will require a further weekly 90 minutes of regional programming to be scheduled for viewing in the Scottish part of the Border region. That programming may be shared with the other Channel 3 licensees in Scotland. ITV must now provide separate transmissions for the two parts of the Border region, so that viewers in England can continue to see network programming.
The current requirements for regional programming in central and northern Scotland will be maintained.
In Northern Ireland, Ofcom has rejected UTV’s proposal to reduce the amount of regional non-news programming. This will remain at two hours a week given the strong support for retaining this level of programming and its relative popularity.
In Wales the overall news minutage will remain the same at 4 hours per week. ITV intends to retain the early evening 30 news minute slot, however, they may schedule shorter lunchtime bulletins in line with other English regions, and has the freedom to schedule the remaining news minutes elsewhere.
In the Channel Islands, the new licence will include a requirement to retain a full 30 minutes of regional early evening news, while reducing the length of lunchtime, late evening and weekend regional news bulletins in line with the English regions.
While these changes apply to the new licences, they will also apply to the existing licences, which expire at the end of 2014.
No changes will be made to the Channel 5 programming obligations.
Financial terms of the licence
Ofcom has also today published a statement setting out the methodology it will use to determine the financial terms on which the licences will be renewed. Ofcom will decide on the size of these payments later this year and licensees must accept these financial terms in order for the licences to be renewed. These financial payments are made to HM Treasury.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
ITV provides the Channel 3 service in England, Wales, the Border region and the Channel Islands; STV covers northern and central Scotland and UTV serves viewers in Northern Ireland. The Channel 5 licence covers all of the UK.
On weekdays, regional news lunchtime bulletins will be reduced from 6.5 minutes to 3 minutes, and late evening bulletins from 10 minutes to 5 minutes. The two daily regional news bulletins at weekends will also be reduced from 10 minutes to 5 minutes.
Under Section 216 of the Communications Act 2003, if Ofcom decides to renew the Channel 3 and Channel 5 licences, it must do so on the same terms and conditions, other than in relation to the financial terms and the geographic area covered by a Channel 3 licence.