Half of Meridian's workforce to go in restructure

Meridian is to relocate next year

Staff at Meridian are reeling after hearing that half of the 350 workforce is to be axed in a major restructuring of the Granada-owned company.

The announcement sounded alarm bells for critics of Granada’s merger with Carlton, after the companies pledged to make at least £100m of savings in the next year with the formation of a single ITV – £50m more than previously estimated.

Many MPs have voiced concerns about the ITV network’s commitment to programming in the regions and pledged support for the threatened workers. Labour MP John Denham intends to put a request to the Speaker for an adjournment debate this week.

Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, was anxious about potential job losses in his constituency, but added: “I’m equally concerned about the potential loss of investment in regional programme making for the ITV network as a whole.”

The redundancies are part of Granada’s plan to move Meridian from its Southampton and New Hythe, Maidstone, bases to a site in Fareham by the end of 2004.

Paul McLaughlin, the NUJ’s national broadcast organiser, said the proposed cuts were a “calamity”. He welcomed the moves from Parliament to scrutinise the proposals.

But Lindsay Charlton, Meridian chairman, said the move would allow “greater emphasis and investment in journalism”. “Our commitment to public service broadcasting providing the best quality news, current affairs and diverse regional programmes is as strong as ever,” he said.

Granada staff are being balloted on taking strike action in a dispute over a 2 per cent pay rise. Employees were also offered a lump sum of shares, with tax paid by Granada, which a spokeswoman said would produce a rise of 8 per cent if cashed in at current prices.

By Sarah Boden

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