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Will the Tories destroy the regional media’s only lifeline?

The emerging battle to run the three regional TV news pilots in Scotland, Wales and the North-East is shaping up to be the big media story of the year, with several rival newspaper groups bidding for the franchises.

Meanwhile, shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is threatening to render the whole exercise academic by pledging to scrap them if the Tories win the forthcoming election.

The Tories want to see a network of much smaller, more local TV stations, some owned and operated outright by local newspapers, although these plans are, to say the very least, somewhat less than fully-formed.

The growing political row provoked a strongly-worded piece by Press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford this morning on his publication’s blog, The Wire.

Says Dominic: "By scrapping the IFNC scheme in favour of a free-market pipe-dream, Hunt is removing the only chance we had of salvaging ITV’s existing network of regional broadcast journalists."

He also points out that combined TV and print franchises along the lines the Tories are suggesting do not exactly have a great track record to date – Manchester’s loss-making Channel M being the obvious example.