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The news where you are

Betsan Powys | 09:58 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

jeremy-hunt-419x210.jpgRemember plans - ones developed over many years of reviews into public service broadcasting - for a new style of news service for ITV in Wales?

Remember the competition amongst potential providers, keen to offer strong competition to the BBC?

In Wales, that competition was won by UTV. The independent selection panel were attracted by what they called "UTV's very strong philosophy of hard news." They liked the emphasis UTV had put on community websites, on newspapers "so that the north of Wales is not forgotten".

UTV pledged that Wales Live would offer a "fresh and authoritative" service.

BBC colleagues sat up, saw stiff competition coming - and liked it.

Then came the General Election. The Shadow Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, had already made it high-definition-clear that he opposed the plans and would scrap them. The plans, he argued, "to prop up regional news simply casts a failed regional TV model in aspic".

So here was one very specific issue where who won the election mattered. They didn't win outright but Mr Hunt's party got into government and so, we gather, he's about to announce that despite pressure to look again at Wales and its pilot, to accept the argument that says Wales - with its lack of national newspapers and real competition to the BBC - ought to be treated differently to other parts of the UK, the pilot here, as elsewhere, will be scrapped.

And in its place? What will Mr Hunt suggest?

Are we about to see a deal that will mean ITV, after all, keeps going with regional news, as long as there's something in it for them that makes it a more attractive and affordable prospect that it was, something to do with advertising revenue and what exactly they're obliged to provide in future on your tv screen and mine?

Are we about to see what Geraint Talfan Davies described some time ago as "the creation of a frothy UK magazine programme, no doubt replete with skateboarding ducks, with shorter news inserts from Wales, and other nations and regions?"

A deal where news for Wales is a peripheral matter for ITV would not, he argues, be "a happy prospect".

Or does Mr Hunt, who has spent a long time thinking about it, have something else up his sleeve to silence the critics already lining up in Wales?

The result of his deliberations will be announced - just after the break.


The announcement - and the reasons for it - are outlined here.

Bottom line?

It would, says Mr Hunt, be "inappropriate" to spend scarce public resources on propping up expensive regional news services. As to what next, he's asked the investment bank Lazard to look at the potential for commercially viable local TV stations in the UK nations and regions.


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