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Government support for STV licence extension

STV has moved a step closer to having its Channel 3 licence renewed until 2024.

ACTION: STV, led by chief executive Rob Woodward, is closer to getting its broadcasting licence renewed until 2024. Picture: James Galloway
ACTION: STV, led by chief executive Rob Woodward, is closer to getting its broadcasting licence renewed until 2024. Picture: James Galloway

Culture Secretary Maria Miller has written to broadcasting regulator Ofcom to say she does not intend to block the existing licence holders for Channel 3 and Channel 5 getting a 10-year extension.

The licences are up for renewal at the end of 2014 and Ofcom is expected to negotiate with all licence holders – including UTV, ITV and Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell – on the terms they will have to meet.

STV, led by chief executive Rob Woodward, said: "We are delighted the Secretary of State, Maria Miller, has recommended the long-term renewal of the Channel 3 licences.

"STV remains committed to the delivery of high-quality public service content and this has been recognised by the Secretary of State in reaching this decision.

"We look forward to engaging with Ofcom in the forthcoming consultation to conclude the re-licensing process."

Ms Miller expressed concern over the provision of Scottish content in the Borders region where ITV is the licence holder.

She has asked Ofcom to find a way forward which will give those viewers similar levels of local content as in the STV licence areas of the central and north of Scotland.

In a letter to Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards, Ms Miller said she considered the "quality and plurality [of] news provision to be of the utmost importance".

At Ms Miller's request Northern & Shell has committed to broadcasting at least 600 hours of UK originated children's programmes on Channel 5 each year.

She also agreed Ofcom should look at a potential separation of the Wales and West Channel 3 licence region.

Ms Miller said: "Renewing the licences for Channel 3 and 5 will enable us to secure a strong and diverse future for public service broadcasting.

"And in these tough economic times, my decision will give the current licence holders – multi-million-pound organisations – the security they need to grow and invest.

"I intend for the licence renewals to deliver a good deal for viewers and the UK economy and also create certainty in the market during these difficult economic times.

"The UK is in a global race, and the TV programmes produced for 3 and 5 are exported around the world. Renewing the licences will ensure the holders can continue to invest in original UK content."

Ofcom said Ms Miller is willing to extend the current licences by one year if negotiations cannot be completed prior to the end of 2014.

The regulator plans to hold a consultation on the obligations of broadcasters over the next licence period including possible changes to regional commitments.

Alongside that an assessment of the financial terms which the new licences will be offered at is taking place with a statement on the process likely in summer 2013.

In a trading statement earlier this month STV confirmed it was on course to meet full-year market expectations for 2012 but was cautious on the outlook for next year.

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