40 jobs in jeopardy under ITV regional news review

Shock at announcement to merge Meridian West and Central South operations

Journalists have reacted with shock and anger to ITV News Group’s plan to axe up to 40 jobs in the south of England as part of its restructuring of regional news programmes.

This week ITV announced structural changes to regional news programmes across the country, which will result in Meridian West and much of Central South merging to form a new region, Thames Valley. The changes will mean 40 jobs in editorial and production areas will be lost.

Paul McLaughlin, NUJ broadcasting organiser, said: “They’ve announced these changes with no prior consultation with staff or unions. Obviously people are shocked and angry at both the decision and the manner in which it has been presented.

“ITV’s press release heralds this as an enhancement of ITV regional news, which bears no relation to the fact that you cannot cut 40 or 50 jobs out of the service and expect it to be as good.” The changes are part of a review of ITV’s regional news services in England and Wales to “prioritise the regional flagship programmes and ensure ITV broadcasts to identifiable regions”.

In addition to the creation of the Thames Valley region, ITV West’s Gloucester bureau will transfer from ITV Central to ITV West and will continue to provide news to local viewers in the Gloucester area.

While there are cutbacks in the south, ITV is investing in Yorkshire where the Calendar news programme is expanding into two editions: one will serve viewers in the North and West of the county and the other will serve Sheffield and South Yorkshire.

According to ITV, the two programmes will be backed by a significant

investment in a new studio and newsgathering technology.

The Tyne Tees region will also gain separate flagship programmes for the North and South. Each will have dedicated presenters, its own studio, satellite truck and newsgathering team.

However, the NUJ, which planned to call a meeting on Tuesday, was critical of ITV’s plan to feature more pan-regional news bulletins during the week.

McLaughlin said: “At a time when the BBC is going more local, ITV is going in the opposite direction. They have an obligation not just to their viewers, but a public service obligation.

Part of the democratic function is that we need to have several voices rather than just one voice.” ITV was adamant, however, that the restructuring would improve the services to viewers across the country.

It stressed that the Thames Valley region was one of the smallest in the country and the two news centres were only 21 miles apart and as such the changes aimed to deliver a more coherent service to viewers in that region.

An ITV spokesperson said: “If you look at what we’re doing in Tyne Tees and Yorkshire we’re creating new services and going more intra-regional.

“In Yorkshire we are having two services where there was one, and the same in Tyne Tees as well. That in part explains the increase from 16 to 17 programmes in regional news.

“We have a strong legacy of providing high-quality regional programming and this is about making sure that the system works and is coherent and that viewers are watching the news that is most relevant to them. It is based on what we feel viewers want.”

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