Multimedia News Consortia Bidders Have Until Christmas To Buddy Up

The likes of Ten Alps, Reuters (NYSE: TRI), S4C and Guardian Media Group have until Christmas to make their case for running proposed independently-funded multimedia news consortia (IFNCs) that would replace ITV (LSE: ITV) nations-and-regions news.

The UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport says it will appoint a selection panel this month to oversee tendering and evaluation for three pilot consortia – one each in Scotland and Wales, and one in an English region…

Firm bids would then be invited in Scotland and Wales later this month, though not in England until the region there is identified by Christmas. The panel would select second-stage bidders to submit final tenders by February and a final decision would be made regarding all three pilots by March.

The department has also backed the proposal to fund the consortia using money unspent from that which the BBC was allocated to help people switch to digital TV.

The idea originated in June’s Digital Britain report, which acknowledged cash-strapped ITV’s waning commitment to nations-and-regions news and the troubles of regional newspapers.

But, more than simply replacing ITV regional news on the Channel 3 TV network, the IFNC idea as set out by Lord Carter presents an exciting possibility for new-style news from atypical providers. He called for “an independent stream of multi-media and broadcast news using (TV) as one means of distribution” (emphasis mine). Using cheaper “(production) assets designed for a different era … the result could be a greater investment in journalism, news-gathering and multi-media distribution and syndication”, Carter said.

So the IFNCs, if executed with convergence in mind, offer the tantalising prospect of TV, radio, newspaper and online companies, and perhaps even non-profit entities, clubbing together to produce news across each of these media.

Will that really happen, or will the old-guard newspaper and TV outfits merely get picked again? We’ll wait until we see the selection panel to decide…