Michael Grade, Executive Chairman of Britain’s largest terrestrial commercial broadcaster ITV, has told a conference organised by the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom that the 50-year-old regional structure in England may be axed in favour of a small number of so-called ”super regions”. He said the present arrangements no longer made sense in a digital age. But he added that in areas such as Wales and Scotland, “the map still makes sense”.
“Elsewhere, the boundaries bear little relationship to regional and community identities on the ground,” said Grade.
Later, an ITV official clarified the remarks and said ITV understands viewers want their own regional news and current affairs show, and ”the aim would be for any changes not to show on screen.”
Any change to ITV’s structure would need to be approved by Ofcom.
Andy Sennitt comments: It makes sense to introduce changes as ITV phases in DTT services to replace the analogue ones. The regional structure of ITV is based on the coverage areas of the original 405-line band III transmitters that carried ITV programmes in the early years. When services moved to UHF, transmitter sites and technical characteristics were chosen to approximate, as closely as possible, these same coverage areas. In the early years of ITV, each region was served by a separate company, and there was a wide variation in programming. Each company had its own Director of Programmes.
But times have changed, and the 11 regions that make up the single company ITV plc now have only a few hours a week of regional programming, mostly news. A larger number of local news services covering smaller areas would make it possible to provide a more relevant service to more people.
The interesting thing, if this plan is approved, would be how the BBC responds. Because BBC programmes are currently transmitted from the same transmitter sites, its own regional structure is very similar to that of ITV. It too provides regional news. Would it be able to compete with a more localised news service offered by ITV?