ITC will decide fate of Meridian West newsroom

Meridian: fears for local TV news

The future of Meridian’s Newbury newsroom will be decided this month when the Independent Television Commission considers parent company Granada’s proposal to close the operation.

Staff at Meridian West are fighting the move after Granada confirmed that it was planning to close the Newbury newsroom.

A delegation from the broadcasting unions has already approached the ITC to block the closure. The opt-out news service for the area was a major part of Meridian’s successful bid for the franchise. Granada has to convince the commission it is not reneging on its news commitment. A source at the ITC said: "We have to ensure that they are biding by their licence agreement."

Newsroom staff were told by Granada directors in December that the offices in Newbury will close in the spring and news bulletins will be produced in the main Meridian headquarters in Southampton.

Staff fear local news will suffer and that at least 50 jobs could be at risk.

Newbury MP David Rendall said he had discussed the closure plan with Granada bosses and had been assured the local service would be unaffected.

Rendall said: "I find that very hard to believe. I think it is very sad because the local news from Meridian is vastly better than that from BBC South."

Meridian managing director Mary McAnally told staff that speculation about job losses had been "greatly exaggerated".

A source at Meridian West said things were looking "really gloomy", adding: "We are not going to take this sitting down. We have had a lot of public support. If the proposal is agreed it will mean an end to real local news in the area. People will not be getting the service they have been getting for the past eight years."

By Martin McNamara and Julie Tomlin

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