Macdonald rejects ITV plc's single brand call

LONDON - Former government minister and TV industry veteran Lord Macdonald has rejected ITV plc's calls for a single ITV brand to cover the UK.

STV: at loggerheads with ITV's subsidy claim
STV: at loggerheads with ITV's subsidy claim

Speaking yesterday in the House of Lords on Ofcom's public service broadcasting review, Macdonald said that the STV brand was vital to serve the interests of Scottish viewers.

He said: "I would ask Ofcom and the DCMS to be prepared to question ITV plc's demand for a single ITV brand covering all the UK," adding that "a nation such as Scotland should not be reduced to reliance on a single broadcaster for the television reporting of its national and local issues, particularly with political impartiality being such a sensitive matter."

In recent months, STV and ITV have been at loggerheads over ITV's claims that it effectively subsidises STV and that it should replace STV on-screen logos with ITV branding.

Meanwhile, STV has argued that ITV substantially benefits from STV's presence, pointing out, for example, that ITV can broadcast programmes made by STV on its digital channels for virtually no cost and benefits from the promotion of those channels on STV.

Referring to this dispute, Macdonald, who held several ministerial posts in Tony Blair's government and is a previous managing director of STV, said: "I ask Ofcom also to examine sceptically the claim that ITV plc subsidises the surviving independent companies on channel 3, which seems to be disputed my old company, STV, and Ulster Television."

He also called for STV to be granted independent producer status in order to allow it to compete for more content commissions from the likes of the BBC.

By law, the BBC must use independent producers for at least one quarter of all of its TV programme commissions. STV hopes that gaining independent status would boost its business and enable it to deliver more local content to Scottish viewers.

Macdonald said: "Ministers and Ofcom could use their good offices to encourage a further increase in Scotland's presence on UK screens. Redesignation as an independent producer would encourage the assembly of a critical mass of creative talent in Glasgow which might compete on even terms with the rest of the independent production sector based largely in London."

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