Holyrood to probe Scottish editorial cuts

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By Hamish Mackay
 
Scottish MSPs are to be asked to investigate
Scottish Media Group’s shock decision to axe 59 television jobs –
including 14 editorial posts in Glasgow.
 
Fifty-five jobs are to go at Scottish Television
in Glasgow and four at Grampian Television in Aberdeen – 13 per cent of
the 450 combined workforce of the two stations.
All the editorial jobs will be lost at Scottish TV.
 
The figure is
thought to include seven reporters, three presenters and three
producers.
The SMG cuts come on top of 27 editorial job losses at the
Scottish Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror’s Scottish edition, 16
editorial job cuts at the Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail and
seven journalistic redundancies at The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.
 
Meanwhile, BBC Scotland plans to cut 195 jobs
over the next three years – including a substantial number of news and
current affairs staff.
Alex Neil, MSP, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s enterprise and
culture committee, has supported a demand by Scottish National Party
culture spokesman Michael Matheson that Scottish and Grampian should
explain their actions to the parliament at Holyrood.
 
Neil said his committee should investigate the
situation in the context of the proposed job losses at BBC Scotland and
the newspaper industrys redundancies.
 
He said: “I think we should look at the general job situation in the media, which is in crisis.
 
“We should have the same kind of fact-finding investigation as we had into the BBC.”
 
Matheson said: “I think the cuts are draconian,
will severely undermine SMG’s production capacity in Scotland and will
leave viewers with a second-rate service as a result.
 
Paul Holleran, Scottish organiser for the NUJ,
said: “I have worked in the media for 30 years and I have never known
anything like it. Corporate greed has reached a new level of cynicism.”
 
On the SMG cuts, Holleran said: “They will
decimate staffing levels among already overworked journalists and news
staff who have watched management destroy the high standards our
members work hard to maintain.
 
“The trust the unions have in management has been
destroyed. It’s been obvious from day one that the company is less
interested in voluntary redundancies and more in selecting individuals
to go out the door.
 
“It’s looking like industrial action may follow
because SMG are hell-bent on compulsory redundancies. We can’t let them
do that on this scale. We want to keep talking to them as long as
possible.”
 
SMG said the job cuts were due to a £30 million
investment in a new studio and office facilities at Glasgow’s Pacific
Quay, and a reduction in local news output.
Earlier this year, Ofcom cut the amount of news that Scottish TV is
forced to produce under its licence obligations by 31 per cent.
Lunchtime bulletins were shortened and plans for an extra nightly news
bulletin at 10.30pm were shelved.
 
Donald Emslie, SMG Television chief executive,
said: “Regrettably, the changing shape of this business and the quantum
leap in technology from our investment in Pacific Quay means that we
expect to need less people to do that.
 
“We plan to consult every step of the way and our staff will be the first to be informed of every decision.”
 
The consultation period will run until February
and SMG said it hoped that some of the losses could be achieved through
voluntary redundancy.
 
Paul McManus, the Scottish regional organiser for
Bectu, warned of
industrial action if management imposed compulsory redundancies.
He said: “This is a cynical ploy to boost the share price. They will
put these people out of the door on redundancy and phone them up the
next day to offer them work on a casual basis.
 
“The politicians and Ofcom were warnd by us six
months ago that this is what SMG wanted and they should be acting as a
matter of urgency to investigate these proposals.”

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