Future ITV News chief defends its regional strategy

Jones: committed to regional news

A single, merged ITV will not lead to “Stalinistic control” of regional news from London, the company’s future head of news has claimed.

Clive Jones, currently ITV’s joint managing director, will take up his new role as chief executive of ITV’s News Division next February.

Speaking at the Television from the Nations and Regions conference in Salford on Wednesday, Jones said regional news would remain a licence commitment. He added that “savings” as a result of the merger “can be and will be ploughed back into the news operation”.

A priority would be “a more coherent and continuous look to national and regional news”, said Jones, adding that he wanted the programmes to be “relatives and not strangers”.

Closer ties between the national and regional news operations did not mean the agenda would be set by London, he claimed, saying it was “not about Stalinistic control from metropolitan England”.

But, he added, a single ITV would lead to changes and “some of the facilities would be closed down because we have too many of them”.

“We are running a commercial business; we are not a publicly funded organisation and we can’t employ people if there isn’t the money to do so.

“Regional television is not about bricks and mortar.We can’t remain in buildings dreamt up in the Seventies, built in the Eighties and redundant in the Nineties,” Jones added, defending the decision to close a number of regional studios.

Steve Hewlett, Carlton’s director of programmes, said: “The debate has got to break out of buildings and facilities.

ITV will succeed if it lights the touchpaper underneath its regional ambitions.”

By Julie Tomlin

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