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Preferred bidders announced for Independently Funded News Consortia pilots

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25 March 2010

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw today announced the preferred bidders for the three independently funded news consortia (IFNC) pilots in Scotland, Wales and the Tyne Tees/Border region in England.

The announcement follows a thorough evaluation process completed by an independent selection panel led by Richard Hooper.

The Government is planning to run three pilot schemes to deliver new ways of providing news for the nations, locally and in the regions to urgently address the sustainability of local and regional news provision in the longer term. These consortia will receive Government funding totalling £47 million (including VAT at current rate) over two years, and will provide local news content across the web, mobile, and other new platforms, along with the television slot currently occupied by ITV and STV regional news.

The preferred bidders are:

Scotland

  • Scottish News Consortium (SNC) (major newspaper groups Johnston Press, Herald and Times Group, and D C Thomson along with independent TV production company Tinopolis)

Wales

  • Wales Live (UTV, the current Channel 3 licence holder in Northern Ireland together with NWN Media Ltd – a regional newspaper print and publishing company)

Tyne Tees/ Border

  • News 3 (Trinity Mirror, Press Association and independent TV production company, Ten Alps) 

Reserve bidders have also been announced for each of the three pilots, these are:

Scotland

  • Scottish News Network (STV, ITN, and Bauer Radio)

Wales

  • Tinopolis

Tyne Tees/ Border

  • Great North News (led by ITN, with Johnston Press, Newsquest, Bauer Media, and University of Sunderland)

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Chair of the independent selection panel Richard Hooper said:

“The members of the Selection Panel and I were most impressed by the quality of the applications.  We had to make some very difficult decisions, knowing that we would disappoint teams that had worked long and hard on their proposals.  The overall quality of the submissions was high with companies both big and small working together.  Bidders understood the implications of convergence, demonstrating how television, local newspapers, the internet, local radio could work together in new and interesting ways. 

“In Wales and Scotland, in addition to strong proposals for regional, local and hyperlocal/community news, the bidders put forward credible ideas for quality news for those nations which is urgently needed as a result of devolution.   We asked for innovation and were not disappointed.  We asked bidders also to think about longer term sustainability without public funds.  Given the political uncertainties surrounding IFNCs, my colleagues and I were particularly impressed by the sustained enthusiasm and resource commitment of the bidders and the momentum that has built up to deliver innovative multi-platform multi-layered news in Wales, Scotland and the Borders/Tyne Tees region of England, competing with the BBC.”

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said:

“This is an important step towards our goal of ensuring choice for people who value high quality, independent local news. I’d like to congratulate all the bidders involved and all the members of the independent panel who under the Chairmanship of Richard Hooper have worked tirelessly to complete a thorough and rigorous process to ensure the preferred bidders are the right choice for Scotland, Wales and the Tyne Tees/Border region.

“The funding available to these consortia represents a massive commitment from this Government to help encourage the long term sustainability of news in the nations, locally and in the regions. I hope this focussed work will now continue with everyone working together to ensure these pilots are up and running by the end of the year.”

Key features of the preferred bidders plans are as follows:

Scotland

  • SNC set out an imaginative and innovative cross-platform approach to news provision adding the reporting resources of its partner newspapers and a new website to a strong TV proposition.  The proposals represented a clear sense of public value associated with a credible news alternative to the BBC in Scotland.   The planned website would act as a portal to 130 local newspaper partner websites.

Wales

  • UTV proposed a model which would deliver a harder-edged TV news programme reflecting the needs of a devolved nation in conjunction with local and community media across both north and south Wales.  A strong track record in Northern Ireland gave credibility to a clear vision for an innovative community-based approach in conjunction with citizen journalists and its newspaper partner, NWN Media.

Tyne Tees/Border

  • News 3 offered a completely new multi-platform studio based at the Newcastle Chronicle offices and a strong offering of both news and news features. The bid promised a unique model for the future provision of local and regional news across different media platforms. 

Under legal requirements, following today’s announcement, there will be a ten day ‘standstill’ period. Discussions on contracts are due to continue after this.

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Notes to Editors

  1. IFNCs were a commitment of the Digital Britain White Paper published on 16 June 2009. The Digital Britain White Paper said the Government was minded to mount three pilots and today’s announcement is selection of the preferred bidders following the Government’s procurement exercise for these pilots.  The Digital Economy Bill, introduced last November contains clauses that create new powers for Ofcom to procure IFNCs following the pilot period.

  2. The independent selection panel is chaired by Richard Hooper CBE. The other panel members are Fru Hazlitt, Val Atkinson, Glyn Mathias, William Perrin and Marc Reeves. Stewart Purvis is acting as an advisor to the panel. More information about IFNCs along with biographies of the panel members can be found at the DCMS website.

  3. The funding for the three pilots will come from the underspend set aside for the digital switchover helpscheme.

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