ITN misses out as Johnston and Trinity snap up ITV news rights

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The Independent Online

Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror have been named among the successful bidders to provide regional news for ITV, but ITN lost out.

The Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, announced the preferred bidders for the three independently funded news consortia pilots yesterday.

The move is designed to provide sustainable local and regional news in the long term. The Government said it would offer the successful consortia £47m in funding over two years, which will come from the digital switchover surplus from the BBC licence fee.

The regional news strategy was a commitment from the Digital Britain White Paper, published in June. The procurement process started "at the back end of last year", a spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said, and the shortlist was whittled down to eight.

The pilots will cover three regions across the UK. The Scottish News Consortium – comprising Johnston Press, the Herald and Times Group, the Beano publisher DC Thomson and Question Time producer Tinopolis – was named as the preferred bidder for Scotland.

Wales will be covered by UTV, which has teamed up with NWM Media, a regional publishing company. The Tyne Tees and Border regions of England will be covered by the News 3 consortium, made up of Trinity Mirror, the Press Association and Ten Alps, the TV production company backed by Bob Geldof.

A spokeswoman for ITN said the company was "disappointed" not to have been selected. "ITN remains totally committed to the importance of regional news and we hope these pilots are a step in the right direction to a longer-term solution for the nations and regions," she said.

Mr Bradshaw said the funding was a "massive commitment from this Government to help encourage the long-term sustainability of news in the nations, locally and in the regions". He hopes the pilots will be up and running by the end of the year.

There will now be a legal "standstill" of 10 days to allow challenges to the decision. ITV welcomed the completion of the first phase, but added there would be "no further steps taken until the election outcome is known and the position on future funding is clear".

The announcement was criticised by the shadow Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who said it was "ridiculous" for the process to continue so close to the election. "Why are they dangling public money in front of a struggling sector when the chances of this being the long-term solution is completely dependent on which party wins in May?" he said. The Tories have pledged to scrap the pilots if they win.