ITN and C4 news chiefs warn against ITV regional news cuts

ITN and Channel 4 news chiefs have warned that the loss of ITV regional news will harm their national operations.

Robin Elias, managing editor of ITN, said that without the ITV regional news infrastructure, ITV news will be ‘badly hit”.

Speaking at the annual Voice of the Listener and Viewer Conference in London today, Elias said that quality journalism did need ‘substantial long term funding’and that ITV’s relationship with the regions was unique and the only alternative to the BBC.

He said the ITN had a relationship with ITV newsrooms, which he hoped would continue, but added the decision was ITV’s to make.

Elias was speaking ahead of a review by the broadcasting regulator Ofcom into ITV proposals to cut regional news operations to make savings of £40m.

Speaking on the same VLV panel, Channel 4 head of news and current affairs, Dorothy Byrne, said ITV’s regional news was “absolutely vital” to Channel 4’s news output, which is also produced by ITN.

“If ITV don’t get it right it could impact on Channel 4 News,” Byrne said.

“It is really important for the future of Channel 4 News that we all ensure that there is a proper debate and discussion to find a way of funding and maintaining a proper alternative to BBC News.”

Ofcom senior programmes executive John Glover, who was the audience at the session, said: “It would be naïve of anybody not to think that there are economic issues with ITV’s delivery of regional news.

“It is expensive, in fact it is the most expensive form of news. The benefits ITV are getting as a public service broadcaster are declining as we go towards digital switchover.”

Glover said he thought the outcome would result in a “balance” between a recognition of ITV’s economic imperatives and its public service obligations.

ITV has revised initial plans announced in September last year that could see the loss of 100s of journalists’ jobs. Under a revised plan, it still intends to slash the number of ITV regional news programmes from 17 to 9 but will introduce 18 ‘sub-regional services”.

The 18 sub-regions will have six minutes of news from their area built into the flagship regional news programmes at 6.05pm.

Ofcom is due to decide on the changes as part of its review into public service broadcasting, the second part of which will be unveiled in the autumn.

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