Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

UTV seeks cut in local show quota

Communications regulator Ofcom is seeking the public's views on whether UTV should be able to produce less local programming than at present.

The regulator wants the views of the public across the UK on proposals regarding the ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5 TV licences.

Ofcom is now working on giving out new 10-year licences for Channel 3 services before current licences end at the end of 2014.

The regulator last consulted on UTV's quota of local programming in 2008. That prompted politicians and trade unions – like journalists' union NUJ – to express views on the importance of local programming.

The broadcaster's licence requires it to show at least two hours of non-news per week – more than the other ITV regional broadcasters – but it emerged last year that UTV had applied to have that cut to 90 minutes.

The request was contained in a report by Ofcom to then-Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt on licence renewal last year.

It said: "In relation to non-news programming, UTV asked for Ofcom's early consideration of bringing [its] licence into line with the other devolved nations by reducing its weekly obligations from two hours to 90 minutes."

UTV's local programming is more popular than equivalent home-grown shows in other ITV regions. However, it is more expensive to produce and does not bring in any more advertising than 'bought in' network programmes like Coronation Street.

No one at UTV Media plc was available for comment last night but a spokeswoman for UTV last year said the reference to non-news programming in the report was "a minor point".

"We've requested parity in relation to our licence requirement for non-news programming purely as a procedural point to bring us in line with the other nations for the licence renewal process, but we have no plans to cut any programming and have always over-delivered."

The consultation inviting the views of the public closes on May 2. For more, see on http://stake holders.ofcom.org.uk/consultat ions/c3-c5-obligations/

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