Fiona Hyslop writes to Ofcom over STV restructuring

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 21 May 2018 in News

STV last week announced the loss of 59 jobs as part of a three-year restructuring plan, which will also include the closure of STV2

Image credit: David Anderson

Fiona Hyslop has written to Ofcom to warn that the planned closure of STV News Tonight “diminishes the range of voices and perspectives available to audiences”.

STV last week announced the loss of 59 jobs as part of a three-year restructuring plan, which will also include the closure of STV2.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed disappointment over the move at last week’s FMQs, telling the chamber: “This a time when it is more important than ever that the Scottish perspective on local, national and international news is reflected by our broadcasters.

“It is, therefore, crucial that the STV news service is not diminished and that its team of excellent journalists continues to produce a high-quality news service covering the whole of Scotland.”

But while STV said the move would result in a more comprehensive news service, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop has written to Ofcom Scotland Director Glenn Preston to ask whether the watchdog had provided prior consent ahead of the announcement of the planned transfer of the STV2 licences.

Hyslop said: “I wish to note regret at the loss, in STV News Tonight, of a distinctive aspect of news provision in Scotland - one which diminishes the range of voices and perspectives available to audiences. We are also concerned about the potential effect of these developments on the quality of coverage of Scottish news received by audiences in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government supports Ofcom’s view that plurality matters and an important aspect of achieving this is ensuring a diversity of viewpoints are available and consumed across and within the media. In view of the range of current and anticipated developments, there may be a case for reviewing the plurality and quality of news provision in Scotland at an appropriate point in the near future to ensure that audiences in Scotland have access to a continuing diversity of viewpoints and high-quality programmes.”

Referring to the news that STV2 is to close, and the local TV licences on which it is based are to be transferred to That’s Media Group Ltd, Hyslop added: “I would welcome confirmation as to whether the prior consent of Ofcom was obtained in advance of the announcement of the planned transfer of the STV2 licences, which I understand is expected to take effect from 29 June.

“Secondly, I assume that the commercial terms agreed with That’s Media Group Ltd oblige them to fulfil the commitments in all five local digital television programme service licences in full, including those for local news (and the higher level of local news commitments for Glasgow and Edinburgh), and we would welcome confirmation from Ofcom that the proposed new holder is aware of these terms and that they are an appropriate licensee.”

An STV spokeswoman said: "The decision to close STV2 has been made on a commercial basis. STV is not proposing any changes to our Channel 3 licence commitments, with STV News continuing to provide uniquely local programmes across Scotland.

"The future changes to STV News announced last week will result in a more comprehensive news service from STV.

"We will continue to deliver high-quality broadcast news defined by its localness and invest in our digital news, thereby increasing choice for audiences across all platforms."

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