One of ITV’s main public service responsibilities is regional broadcasting. The volume may have diminished over the years but it is still one of the channel’s unique selling points and legal obligations.
It is to the company’s credit that virtually all its regions are now in HD on satellite – unlike the BBC’s English regions. ITV is a business and not a charity so it is right that it should have been reviewing how it used its satellite space.
To make space for HD channels it has reduced the number of SD regional services available on Sky and Freesat.
The loss of more SD versions of the main channel will make little difference now. Virtually all satellite viewers have HD equipment and the SD service is a legacy.
But might the reduction in +1 regions attract some comment?
In the English regions, if truth be told, it makes little difference. Few watch the regional news an hour later on catch up.
But satellite viewers in Wales and, from this week, Northern Ireland have lost their dedicated services too. Presumably ITV has calculated the savings are greater than any loss of local advertising revenue.
It should be stressed that regional programmes in Wales and Northern Ireland are still available online for anyone who missed their broadcast on the main channel.
But might dropping the tailored +1s risk sending out the wrong signals about ITV’s genuine commitment to services for these nations?
In Northern Ireland’s case, the +1 service only went on to satellite relatively recently and is still available on Freeview.
It is interesting though, that Northern Ireland satellite viewers now see a +1 service covering another of ITV’s macro advertising regions.
There may be questions too about whether the whole suite of regional +1s across the network will continue on Freeview in the medium term.
But there is naturally another unintended consequence in NI.
The satellite EPG now, of course, lists ITV+1 rather than UTV+1. The EPG titles remained after the station adopted ITV continuity last year.
So yet another of the few remaining legacy pieces of distinct UTV branding has gone by stealth. This means, technically, there is now an ITV+1 EPG entry linked to a service still branded as UTV on the EPG.
Surely this needs to be tidied up soon? ITV or ITV – UTV? Place your bets now.