ITN voluntary redundancy plan starts cutbacks

ITN is to trawl its staff for volunteers for redundancy as its first step towards job cuts which expected to affect up to 100 posts.

Staff – who have been anticipating job losses since ITN finalised a £33m a year contract to supply ITV’s news – have been told that, as well as redundancies, cost-cutting will hit travel expenses and the staff canteen. The news broadcaster also plans to alter terms and conditions for new employees with a changed pension scheme.

Following speculation that up to 120 jobs could go, ITN bosses have not confirmed how many posts are under threat. They are thought to be targeting management positions and jobs outside digital broadcasting, but compulsory redundancies among its 600 journalists have not been ruled out.

ITN chiefs have played down the impact of a reduction of more than £10m a year in the money it will receive from ITV to supply its news, claiming that the downturn in the economy was also behind the cuts.

But staff are concerned that the quality of ITN’s news will suffer as a result of the cut-price agreement.

ITN won the contract in September after facing competition for the first time from a Sky News-led consortium, Channel 3 News. "It’s a bargain-basement approach to news that is bound to affect quality," said one source.

Ten years ago, the contract was worth £80m and ITN, which then supplied news for just ITV and Channel 4, employed 1,000 people. Today it employs the same number across all its news outlets, which include its own 24-hour news channel, 5 News, online and radio.

Paul McLaughlin, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said the deal, particularly in light of the current world crisis, "calls into question ITV’s commitment to news".

"We’re suspicious of the bidding process that has driven down costs in this way. ITV’s news is bound to suffer as a result," he said.

The union is to call on the ITC to ensure that ITV meets its licence requirement to provide quality news.

Both the NUJ and Bectu will oppose any compulsory redundancies.

McLaughlin added: "It’s vital that there is a strong alternative to the BBC and staff need resources and security if they are going to provide that. "

By Julie Tomlin

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