Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has placed a question-mark over the future of 600 editorial jobs when the current ITV licence fee period comes to an end.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Conference yesterday as he unveiled new plans for a channel six network of local TV stations, he said: ‘When we have this structure in place. I will be very relaxed as to what happens in regional news.”
He added that it that the public service broadcasters would ‘have a much freer hand over what they thought was appropriate for the future for their regional services. I would leave it to the PSBs what to do”.
The provision of high-quality local news is currently enshrined in the ITV licence agreement and it means that ITV effectively subsidises the service to the amount of up to £50m a year. Two years ago ITV slashed its regional editorial staff by around 40 per cent, but that still leaves over 600 working in the regions for ITV.
Hunt has effectively said that it will be up to ITV whether or not it wishes to continue with its regional broadcasting commitments when its current agreement is renewed in 2014.
Hunt yesterday revealed plans for a new Communications Act which is set to remove much media regulation.
And he said that a ‘a new licensing regime’will be put in place to ‘foster the creation of local TV services’.
He said: ‘What this will mean for consumers is a new channel dedicated to the provision of local news and content.
‘One that will sit alongside other public service broadcasters, offering a new voice for local communities, with local perspectives that are directly relevant to them.”
Hunt said he would ‘allow the market’to decide how many new local TV services are created.
He said that his aim was for the first local TV licences to be awarded by the end of 2012.
So indirect funding of £25m initially and then £5m a year, from the BBC licence fee, has been promised to fund local TV.