OFCOM, the broadcasting regulator, yesterday allowed the controversial merger of Border and Tyne Tees television news programming.

When the cost-saving merger goes ahead, the main evening Lookaround news programme will include separate 15-minute sections for viewers in each area covered.

There will also be separate late-evening bulletins for each part of the new news region.

Lookaround, the main news programme for the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, is currently made in Carlisle.

ITV have said they will include a minimum of six minutes of wider Scottish news within the 15-minute sections, but both parts of the news will be directed from studios in Gateshead, on the Tyne.

Stewart Purvis, expert on content and standards for Ofcom, told The Herald: "We think it's a better deal for viewers in difficult circumstances - but some have asked why we can't instead make ITV carry on as it is.

"Quite simply: times have changed."

He added: "If we'd insisted on keeping all the ITV regions and sub-regions, resources would have been spread much too thinly, with an inevitable decline in quality.

"Our research told us the audience valued Border's Lookaround programme ... that's why our dialogue with ITV was aimed at keeping as much local news gathering and output as possible."

John Lamont, Borders MSP, said he was shocked by the Ofcom report. "Whilst we have come to accept the very metropolitan outlook of ITV, I have always believed that the job of Ofcom was to protect the public from proposals which were against the wider community interest," he said.

"However, this report represents a complete failure by Ofcom to stand up for the tens of thousands of people across the Borders who depend on their local TV news service."

Gerry Morrissey, general- secretary of BECTU, the broadcasting union, said: "How can you pretend to be offering something valuable to the Border audience, whose region stretches from Dumfries to Yorkshire, in 15 minutes a day?

"These proposals mark the beginning of closure on ITV's strong record as a regional broadcaster."