Baroness Ford, Chair of STV, must reconsider an invitation to appear before Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, says convener Joan McAlpine MSP.
The chair of the broadcaster last night declined to appear before the committee to answer questions about job losses, the closure of STV2 and the strategic review of the broadcaster, which has a public service obligation.
The Baroness stated in a letter to Ms McAlpine that she has “no further evidence to add” to that of the chief executive Simon Pitts who appeared before the committee two weeks ago.
Trade unions representing STV workers have accepted the committee's invitation to give evidence on 28 June. Individual journalists cannot appear before the committee due to contractual obligations.
The committee was also rebuffed by STV in its request for a copy of the channel’s review strategy document. Chief Executive Simon Pitts said during the evidence session that he would consider the committee's request to share the document. However, he declined a formal request to do so in his letter of 14 June to the committee, citing commercial sensitivities.
The committee has also been turned down by Crystal Amber, the largest shareholder in STV, for a representative of the investment company to appear with Baroness Ford on 28 June.
Committee Convener Joan McAlpine MSP said:
“The refusal of STV to hand over its strategy document after saying it would consider our request is very disappointing.
“I’m also unimpressed by the refusal of Crystal Amber to appear before our committee, as it was clear from earlier evidence that these were strategic decisions made by the board.
“Crystal Amber calls itself an "active investor" meaning as the largest shareholder it is very much involved in the direction of the company.
“These cumulative refusals make it imperative that the chair of the board, Baroness Ford, reconsiders our invitation to appear before MSPs on 28 June.”
Deputy Convener, Claire Baker MSP said:
“Questions still remain to be answered by STV on the cuts to its news service in Scotland. Our cross-party committee would expect the board of STV to recognise the importance of our invitation to give further evidence.”
On 7 June the committee took evidence on STV’s strategic review from Simon Pitts, Chief Executive, and Bobby Hain, Director of Channels, STV.
On 16 May 2018, STV announced the results of a strategic review unveiling a three-year growth plan. According to the announcement, “The new strategy will bring changes to STV’s management, culture and organisation and will be delivered through 3 strategic objectives:
• Maximising the value of STV’s broadcast business by delivering high quality, cost-effective news and entertainment;
• Driving digital growth through the STV Player by creating an STV for Everyone
• Building STV Productions into a world-class independent production company.”
The announcement contained a number of specific measures to be taken under the plan, including the closure of STV2; “commercial terms agreed to sell STV’s local TV assets to That’s Media”; and the launch of a ‘change programme’ in news entitled “News 2020”.