• The Scottish News Consortium (SNC) is delighted by today's Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announcement that it has selected the alliance to produce Scottish news for STV and create the UK's first fully integrated TV-to-internet news service.

    The SNC, which comprises Scotland's three leading newspaper companies, DC Thomson, the Herald & Times Group, and Johnston Press, and independent TV production company Tinopolis, was selected following a rigorous appraisal by DCMS supported by Ofcom, and by panel of leading media experts.

    The win for the consortium will lead to the biggest shake up of news in Scotland for decades. The SNC is committed to delivering much more local and regional news and plans much more interaction with its audience than any other news service. Its aim is to achieve a real increase in the audience for Scottish news. ScotlandFirst, the proposed name for the news service, will be a fully integrated television and online service with features including:

    * news where and when it happens with 50 additional video journalists situated around the country in consortium news offices
    * cross-promotion to a state of the art website providing news from ScotlandFirst, encouraging audience comment and involvement and linking visitors on to a network of over 130 existing local and regional news websites;
    * making the news more relevant for young people by interacting with social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and by working with schools to encourage pupils to run their own newspapers and websites;
    * engaging the people of Scotland with fresh new programming such as "News from Your Neighbourhood" which will be a 2-3 minute slot produced by local citizens from across the nation to let them raise issues or talk about the things that matter to them.

    The final stage in the process before ScotlandFirst can begin its service is for the SNC to agree separate contracts with DCMS and STV.

    SNC Chairman Mark Wood said, "We have a unique opportunity to change the nature of news provision for the people of Scotland for the better, and we are confident that we will. Our radical plans will stimulate interest and debate around news at local, regional and national level. We will build on the proud tradition of independent thinking in Scotland by listening to and engaging with the people, so that the issues and stories we cover are ones which are important to them. We will give Scotland the service it deserves."

    In its announcement today, DCMS said: "SNC set out an imaginative and innovative cross-platform approach to news provision adding the reporting resources of its partner newspapers and a new website to a strong TV proposition. The proposals represented a clear sense of public value associated with a credible news alternative to the BBC in Scotland. The planned website would act as a portal to 130 local newspaper partner websites."

    Note to Editors

    The Independently Funded News Consortium (IFNC) concept, the provision of regional news to Channel 3 by local media companies, was adopted by DCMS as a response to the concerns from the incumbents that local news had become too expensive for them to produce. Three pilots have been set up, in Wales, Tyne Tees/Borders and STV, to provide a two year test of the concept, which if it is successful will be rolled out across the rest of the UK. DCMS have an aspiration that the Scottish borders should become a part of the STV region pilot at some future date.

    Johnston Press is the second largest regional press company in the UK, employing over 6,000 staff and with a turnover in 2008 of £532m. The company has strong connections to Scotland having originated in Falkirk in 1767 and with its headquarters located in Edinburgh. Johnston Press is one of the biggest news organisations in Scotland with an extensive portfolio of newspapers and associated websites, including The Scotsman and scotsman.com.

    DC Thomson & Co Ltd was founded in 1905 and produces more than 100 million newspapers and magazines annually. The company publishes a number of newspaper titles, including The Press & Journal, Evening Express, The Courier & Advertiser, Evening Telegraph and The Sunday Post. DC Thomson also publishes a number of magazines, children's publications and owns two book publishing companies. It is deeply involved in internet technology through its wholly-owned subsidiary Brightsolid (formerly Scotland Online), a leading UK independent provider of IT business services to large public and private sector organizations.

    The Herald & Times Group publishes The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times and news web sites heraldscotland.com and eveningtimes.co.uk. It also publishes niche magazines and owns the s1 internet advertising company and a major printing plant. The Glasgow-based group was founded in 1783 and has some 600 staff.

    Employing more than 400 people in London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Oxford and Llanelli, the Tinopolis Group produces broadcast television programming for all major domestic channels. Subsidiaries include Mentorn Media; leading sports producer Sunset + Vine; BAFTA-winning drama producers Daybreak Pictures; specialist factual producers Pioneer Productions; and the leading TV training company Video Arts, originally founded by John Cleese. Tinopolis Interactive specialises in new media products for education, training, corporate development and entertainment. Mentorn Scotland has been producing TV programmes for almost a decade, and in 2010 will produce Question Time for the BBC, a programme which Mentorn has produced for 11 years from more than 200 locations across the UK.

    SNC Chairman Mark Wood was formerly Chairman and Chief Executive of ITN, which produces ITV News and Channel 4 News. At ITN he developed a range of successful digital new media businesses. Before ITN he was Editor-in-Chief of Reuters, in charge of the organisation's global news, photo and video services. At Reuters he also had responsibility for developing the media business and was a member of the Reuters PLC Board. He is now involved in a number of new media businesses as an investor or director. He is also on the Board of Future PLC, the global magazine publishing group.

    Press contact: Mark Wood,
    Chairman, Scottish News Consortium.
    Email: markwwood@googlemail.com
    Mobile: +447971 160918

  • Question Time producer, Mentorn Media is to co-produce Ask the Chancellors with Channel 4 News for Channel 4, it was announced today.

    The would-be chancellors from the three major political parties - Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats - will participate in a live election programme presented by Krishnan Guru-Murthy.
    Commissioned by Head of Channel 4 News and Current Affairs Dorothy Byrne, the one hour programme - Ask The Chancellors - will be a highlight of Channel 4's election coverage. Alistair Darling MP, George Osborne MP and Vince Cable MP will debate with each other and also face questions from a studio audience.

    Dorothy Byrne said: "With the economy being the key issue of the election, this debate - which will air just after the Budget is announced - will provide an opportunity for the audience to question each of the prospective chancellors, holding them and their policies to account."

    Mentorn Media's Executive Producer, Steve Anderson, said: "Ask The Chancellors promises to be an historic programme, and we are delighted to be making it for Channel 4. The next election is most likely to turn on who convinces the voters they have the best plans for the UK economy, so it will be fascinating for viewers to see the three key players debating the main questions.

    "Mentorn Media is delighted to be commissioned to make this programme by Channel 4. We are already working with the ITN Channel 4 News team and the presenter, Krishnan Guru Murthy.

    "Ask the Chancellors adds to the wide range of programming that Mentorn Media is producing for the 2010 General Election. Throughout the campaign we will have live editions of Question Time, presented by David Dimbleby, on BBC One after the Leaders Debates. Also, we recently made First Time Voters' Question Time, presented by Dermot O'Leary, which was a huge hit for BBC THREE."

    The programme, which will be broadcast between 8-9pm on March 29th on Channel 4, is being made by Mentorn Media in association with ITN. Elizabeth Clough and Steve Anderson are Executive Producers with David Mapstone from Channel 4 News as Editor.

    For more information please contact Louise Plank on 020 8995 3936 or lou@plankpr.com

  • The panel for the First Time Voters' Question Time has been announced today.

    The panel will include David Lammy MP, Higher Education Minister; Jeremy Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Julia Goldsworthy MP, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Communities and Local Government - and one of the youngest MPs in the Commons.

    First Time Voters' Question Time is hosted by Dermot O'Leary on Wednesday 3 March 2010. Filmed in front of an audience of first-time voters, the programme will be broadcast live from Canary Wharf, London, on BBC Three at 8pm.

    Joining the politicians will be political satirist Rory Bremner and Tim Campbell, the first ever winner of the Apprentice and a social enterprise ambassador. After working for Sir Alan Sugar for two years, he left Amstrad to set up the Bright Ideas Trust, which aims to give young people a chance to start up in business with funding and advice.

    The sixth panellist will be Jamelia, singer and Prince's Trust ambassador.

    Talking about the panel line-up, Ed Havard, Editor of Question Time and First Time Voters' Question Time, said: "BBC Three is the most-watched digital channel for 16-34 year olds for the time it's on air so it is great to have panellists with a genuine appeal and profile amongst first time voters.

    "This is a unique programme and an important piece of public service broadcasting in the current context. We are pleased to have secured panellists who can debate some of the issues of greatest concern to first time voters."

    Ahead of Wednesday's programme, Dermot O'Leary said: "I'm a massive Question Time fan. Politics has always interested me and I was fortunate to study politics at an incredibly interesting time with the fall of Margaret Thatcher, the Tory victory of 1992 and the subsequent birth of New Labour.

    "After recent events it seems politicians from all parties have got their work cut out for them to win over the trust of the electorate and especially first time voters. I really hope we can answer a lot of the questions that first time voters have and help engage the policy makers of tomorrow. "

    Notes to Editors

    First Time Voters' Question Time is part of a package of BBC Three programmes bringing political coverage to the 16 - to 34-year-old audience.

    The one-off programme is produced by Mentorn Media, makers of BBC's One's Question time, as a separate commission.