Funding for regional news provision faces £64m deficit says Ofcom

LONDON - Ofcom has told the government the costs associated with Channel 3 regional licences are unsustainable and face a funding shortfall £38-£64m if the provision of regional news is to be maintained in its current form, after digital switchover in 2012.

ITV, in England and Wales, UTV, in Northern Ireland, and STV, in Scotland, currently broadcast terrestrially via Channel 3 licenses but must adhere to certain PSB obligations, including the provision of expensive regional news services.

Following the release of the Digital Britain report, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport launched a consultation into the provision of regional news and in its response Ofcom has reiterated its proposals to create independent news consortia, funded by competitive tender, to deliver regional services.

In a statement released this morning, Ofcom said: "The consortia could be made up of existing television news providers, newspaper groups or other newsgathering agencies.

"They could be chosen against a range of public criteria, including the ability to achieve the reach, editorial standards and overall quality of current Channel 3 regional productions."

Ofcom has also today published research today in which it says local and regional media in the UK face "unprecedented challenges, driven by growing use of the internet".

The report says consumers still value a choice of regional news services and that spectrum freed up after digital switchover could be used for new local TV services and it will consult on this at a later date.

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