Scotland

STV local set to move into BBC3 slot when it goes online

STV building Image copyright Geograph

Broadcaster STV looks set to win its campaign to secure a more prominent slot on Freeview for its local TV stations.

The company runs local TV stations covering Glasgow and Edinburgh and is due to open more.

Its stations are currently on Channel 23 - but English local TV stations are on Channel 8.

Trade body Digital UK is consulting on moving the Scottish stations after BBC3 becomes an online-only operation.

The consultation could also lead to a slightly more prominent slot for the Gaelic service BBC Alba.

A chain of local TV stations across the UK has opened over the past two years through a scheme put in place by the Westminster government. The former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was a strong supporter of the concept.

Significant disadvantage

STV was the only established broadcaster to apply for local licences. The licences in the rest of the UK have gone to new companies, and some have struggled.

But STV's stations - and local TV stations in Wales - suffered a significant disadvantage.

Because Channel 8 was already in use, the local stations were placed far further down the electronic programme guide. This meant they were less noticeable and less likely to attract casual viewers.

The BBC's reinvention of BBC3 as an online service has created an opportunity. BBC3 is due to stop broadcasting on Freeview Channel 7 early in the New Year.

Digital UK is now looking at what to do with the slot.

A consultation - aimed at stakeholders in the industry - looks at two possible options.

Digital UK's preferred idea would see Gaelic channel BBC Alba move from Channel 8 to Channel 7. Local stations in Scotland and Wales would then move up from Channel 23 to Channel 8.

Raise profiles

Another, more complicated, option would also give the local stations a more prominent slot on Freeview.

STV Glasgow went on the air in May 2014, while STV Edinburgh started last January. The company also plans local stations covering Ayr, Dundee and Aberdeen.

The company said in the summer that it was hopeful STV Glasgow would break even before the end of this year.

Viewing figures for individual programmes are often very modest but the two local stations typically reach almost 200,000 people a week.

A move to a more prominent slot could provide an opportunity to raise the profiles of the stations and boost both ratings and advertising revenue.

A spokesman for STV said: "Although STV Edinburgh and STV Glasgow already have an established audience, it is vital that these channels move to the front page of the Electronic Programme Guide providing parity with services in England and Northern Ireland."

Any changes to channel numbers will take place after BBC3 goes online.

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