Memorandum submitted by Border Television
Limited (PDB 5)
Border Television has steadily increased its
coverage of Scottish matters since the late 1980's and has markedly
increased coverage since Devolution. This has been achieved, in
the main, through the provision of a split news service across
Southern Scotland. Border's regional programmes are amongst the
most watched local programmes in the UK.
Director of Programmes
23 November 2001
Border Television is unique within terrestrial
television in the U.K. It is the only television station that
covers a region that crosses a national boundary and it is a region
that embraces three separate and distinct culturesEnglish,
Scottish and Manx. Within the region there are further sub groups
that are markedly different from their near neighbours. For example,
the West Cumbrian outlook, shaped by its history of heavy industry,
is different from that of North Cumbria, parts of which have some
of the lowest unemployment levels in the UK, those in rural Galloway
have different viewpoints from those in the Scottish Borders textile
towns and the rivalry between those Border communities, as demonstrated
on the rugby pitch, is legendary. Yet, there is more that binds
those in the Border Television region than separates them. We
hold a non-metropolitan view of the world and the concerns of
city life and the solutions to inner city problems do not always
The whole region is linked to the fortunes of
the rural economy and inward investment decisions into any part
of the region, either in Scotland or England, have to take into
account a workforce spread across a sparse area over which there
are poor transport links. The people here are united by a history
which for centuries saw them fiercely contest the Borderlands
through alliances that ignored nationhood and political boundaries.
This, along with a conservative tradition shaped by remoteness
and life within small communities, has given a strong sense of
identity to those in the Border Television region who recognise
that although at times they desire to be seen apart from their
near neighbours they acknowledge they share a way of life that
is different from that in much of the rest of the British Isles.
Broadcasting Prior To Devolution:
In the 1980's advances in engineering made it
possible to modify the Selkirk transmitter to allow it to carry
a sub-opt news service. Border Television was not obliged through
a condition of the Licence to take advantage of this modification
and to provide a sub opt news service for those people who received
ITV through the Selkirk transmitter. However, the Board of Directors
of the company decided that the news sub-opt ought to be provided
as a service to viewers. In 1989, Border began transmitting the
service, (which was known as the Selkirk News Opt-Out) for several
minutes each night during the Lookaround news magazine programme.
Some news items from the Selkirk area were still seen by all of
the viewers in the region because they were deemed to be of interest
to all Border viewers but some very local news stories were seen
only by those in the area served by the opt-out.
The Selkirk sub-opt served a population of little
more than 100,000, making it the smallest dedicated news service
on mainstream television in the U.K. Under the new Licence granted
to the company, coming into force, in 1991 Border was required
to provide the Selkirk sub opt news service.
Broadcasting Post Devolution
In the late 1990's further engineering modifications
took place and Channel 24 on the Caldbeck transmitter in Cumbria
was made available to Border. This gave the opportunity to split
the signal further and to provide a separate sub regional news
service across most of Southern Scotland (except for small patches
where the split signal can not be received). Border was not obliged
to extend the Selkirk news opt out across Southern Scotland, however,
the Board, once again, decided that it would be advantageous to
viewers to do so. The decision to extend the news split to take
in Dumfries and Galloway as well as the Borders was taken in recognition
of the increased interest and awareness of Scottish affairs as
a result of Devolution and in order to give adequate time on air
to cover news and issues arising out of the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish news "split" was launched on Border Television
in April 1999 and has remained in place since then.
Through this service, viewers in Dumfries and
Galloway and the Borders receive a dedicated local news at lunchtime
and for a part of the Lookaround news magazine programme. In addition,
Border has established an office in Edinburgh (within the Lawnmarket
complex) with an edit and camera facility, and the company has
recruited technical and journalistic staff to provide coverage
of the affairs of the Scottish Parliament.
Coverage of Scottish Affairs at Westminster
has not diminished in the sense that when newsworthy items arise
from Westminster they are covered in the same way that they were
prior to Devolution. Arrangements for coverage of Scottish affairs
at Westminster remain unchanged.
Under the terms of the 1990 Broadcasting Act,
Section 78, the requirement to provide the Scottish split news
service became a Licence obligation when Border Television PLC
was taken over by Capital Radio PLC (to be acquired in 2001 by
the Granada Media Group under a "put and call" agreement).
In addition to news, Border is able, on occasions,
to transmit separate sports coverage to English and Scottish viewers
within the region. This has been achieved, notably when Champions
League matches are played. This split was first used in August
1999 when Chelsea v Skonto Riga was shown to viewers in the English
part of the Border Television region while Rangers v. Parma was
seen by viewers in the Scottish part of the region. This facility
has been adopted on a number of occasions when scheduling arrangements
and sporting fixtures allow.
The provision of the split service has amounted
to a continuing significant investment by Border. On 21 November
2001 digital satellite viewers in the Border Television region
started to receive the Border ITV service. Border's split service
being extended to digital satellite with Scottish Border viewers
receiving the station's Scottish service while the south of the
Border receives the English signal.
Programme Output and Content
Border Television represents something of a
success story in terms of regional television in the U.K. Border
Television viewers have a tremendous appetite for local programmes.
The news magazine programme "Lookaround" has been the
most watched programme of its kind in Britain, either BBC or ITV,
for several years. On a number of occasions in 2001 Lookaround
was watched by more than 60 per cent of the television audience.
This is a remarkably high figure; the BBC locally on those occasions
was watched by fewer than 30 per cent of the audience. The Independent
Television Commission in its Annual Performance Review statements
in recent years has pointed to the fair geographical spread of
news coverage across the Border Television region. This and the
fact that the region is not dominated by a large metropolitan
centre but instead comprises small communities means that output
is more relevant to viewers. Border's success has depended upon
its deep roots in the region it serves (it is considered THE local
station) and through understanding the region and its viewers.
Many of Border's feature programmes are tremendously
popular in all parts of the region regardless of whether the subject
matter is predominantly English or Scots or Manx. Popular factual
programmes, docu-soaps, single programmes and series have all
performed well in recent years, occasionally being viewed by more
than 50 per cent of the audience (again a remarkable achievement
and rarely matched for local television on BBC or ITV).
Border's programme policy regarding Current
Affairs has been to report on, to analyse and to reflect significant
issues in the region. On occasion Current Affairs programmes have
dealt with specific issues, for instance in 1999 Border screened
a series that examined the crisis in the Border's Textile Industry.
Other current affairs programmes and series have dealt with region
wide issues and most Border current affairs programmes examine
issues from a Border region standpointon how people living
on either side of the National border are affected. Border is
the only broadcaster that does this, the only broadcaster that
examines issues from a Border region perspective. Border, as the
late Lord Whitelaw once said, is the "cohesive force that
binds the region together".