Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence




  1.0.1  SMG originated from the ITV franchise, Scottish Television, which acquired Caledonian Publishing (The Herald and Evening Times) in 1996, Grampian Television in 1997, Pearl & Dean and Primesight in 1999 and Ginger Media Group (including Virgin Radio) in 2000. SMG also has a minority interest in the national Channel 3 breakfast-time broadcaster, GMTV, in Scottish Radio Holdings plc, the principal commercial radio operator in Scotland and in Heart of Midlothian plc, the Scottish Premier League football club.

  1.0.2  The Group employs over 1,800 staff at its main operations in Glasgow, London, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

  1.0.3  SMG's market capitalisation is £745 million (as at 7/2/01). A FTSE 250 company, the Group is one of Scotland's top 10 listed businesses.

  1.0.4  We believe strongly in investing in our businesses to enhance the quality of our products for the benefit of our viewers, listeners and readers. Our track record in this area, embracing new technology and improving our existing products and services is well-documented.

  1.0.5  We are also strongly committed to the promotion of and preservation of regional media that satisfy the needs and aspirations of local viewers, listeners and readers in addition to those of local and national advertisers.

1.1  Investment in Infrastructure

    —  We are currently constructing a new printing facility for our publishing division at a cost of £38 million, due for completion in 2002. This will enable increased pagination and the introduction of more colour in our newspapers, producing a higher quality product for our readers.

    —  The new state-of-the-art extension to our Glasgow headquarters, recently built to accommodate editorial and advertising staff within our publishing division, cost over £25 million. In 1999, we opened new premises in a central London location to house our London-based outdoor and cinema advertising businesses in addition to the London offices of our newspaper and television broadcasting operations.

    —  We are also currently upgrading our studios and offices in Golden Square, London, the home of Virgin Radio, at a cost of almost £2 million.

1.2  Investment in Technology

  1.2.1  Over three years we will have invested over £15 million in our television facilities. A digital/computerised news facility was designed, built and implemented in our Glasgow studios, along with desk-top editing for journalists, creating one of the most advanced newsrooms in Europe. A new digital outside broadcast unit cost £1.5 million and the upgrading of Grampian Television's existing technical facilities in Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness amounted to £5 million. This year we are further upgrading our studio facilities in Glasgow with widescreen technology at a cost of £1.5 million.

  1.2.2  SMG Radio continues to be at the forefront of investment in new technology, particularly in new broadcasting platforms eg digital radio, Internet broadcasting and other broadband media.

1.3  New Product Development

  1.3.1  Sunday Herald—launched in 1999, now the third biggest-selling Sunday broadsheet in Scotland, the most competitive newspaper market in the UK. Best European Sunday Newspaper of the Year 2000.

  1.3.2  S1—a suite of web sites aimed at the Scottish market, the first of which,, was launched in January 2001 and is already Scotland's leading recruitment web site.

  1.3.3  S2—the first pan-Scotland digital television service, launched in April 1999, currently available in 400,000 Scottish homes.

  1.3.4  The Groove—a new London digital radio service, based on a classic soul music format.

  1.3.5  South & West Yorkshire Radio Licence—our application for this licence was lodged earlier this month.

1.4  Content

  1.4.1  Our investment programme is evidence of our commitment to the provision of a wide range of high-quality content, delivering the highest standard of information and entertainment to our viewers, listeners and readers.

  1.4.2  Furthermore we are totally committed to preserving the editorial integrity of our media. Whilst the editorial impartiality of our television and radio stations is protected by law, our newspapers have an equally strong reputation for fairness, accuracy and the balanced nature of their coverage.

February 2001

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Prepared 26 February 2001