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Regional news pilots shelved, ministers confirm

The government has confirmed that its plan to establish regional TV news pilots in Scotland, Wales and the North-East has effectively been put on hold until after the election.

Preferred bidders for the three pilot schemes to provide Channel 3 regional news coverage were unveiled a fortnight ago today.

The government had hoped to get contracts for the pilots signed off before the election in order to proof the scheme against Tory proposals to scrap it.

But with the civil service now essentially in ‘maintenance’ mode, ministers yesterday admitted there was no chance of making further progress on the scheme.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “DCMS must comply with the Cabinet Office general election guidance and any further detailed contract discussions cannot continue until after the election.”

The future of the proposal will now depend on Labour being returned to power on 6 May.

As reported yesterday, the government has also been forced to scrap its plans to reform the libel laws to cap success fees for lawyers at 10pc.

Justice secretary Jack Straw has argued that the plans would have helped local papers who are currently deterred from contesting libel actions by the level of fees being charged.