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Ofcom sets new public service license terms for ITV, Channel 5

UK broadcast regulator Ofcom has ruled that ITV must deliver more regionalised news reports as part of its new public service requirements when its current license expires at the end of 2014. 

Setting out terms for the next 10-year license for ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5, Ofcom approved proposals for a more localised Channel 3 news service across England, with ITV to provide regional news in 14 separate news regions, compared to the eight it currently operates.

In all but two of ITV’s licences, requirement for a weekday regional news bulletin in the early evening will be reduced from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, though ITV said it will continue to run 30 minute news segments. ITV’s proposal to reduce the volume of news coming out of the London and North West England regions were rejected.

“Ofcom considers that, in most regions, the benefits to viewers of a more localised news service will more than offset the reduction in the amount of regional news that ITV is required to provide under its licences,” the regulator said.

ITV provides the Channel 3 service in England, Wales, the Border region and the Channel Islands. STV takes the same EPG slot in northern and central Scotland, while UTV serves viewers in Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, Ofcom said there should be “enhanced coverage of Scottish affairs in the area covered by ITV’s Border licence that lies in Scotland to better serve viewers” and ordered a further weekly 90 minutes of regional programming to be scheduled in Scottish part of the Border region, on top of the 30 minutes of weekday early evening news relevant to the region.

The current requirements for regional programming in central and northern Scotland will remain the same. In Northern Ireland, Ofcom rejected UTV’s proposal to reduce the amount of regional non-news programming, which will remain at two hours a week.

A new licence for the whole of Wales will be created, Ofcom said. This will include “a requirement to retain a full 30 minutes of regional early evening news, while reducing the length of lunchtime, late evening and weekend regional news bulletins in line with the English regions.”

No changes were made to the programming obligations of Channel 5, which broadcasts throughout the UK.