ITV News local services could be 'decimated' by job cuts, union warns

The broadcasting union has slammed plans to make as many as 200 journalists redundant at ITV News as part of its plans to save £40m by slimming its public service broadcasting commitments.

On Thursday Ofcom publishes the second stage of its review of public service broadcasting and is expected to give the go-ahead to ITV proposals to significantly cut local services. According to reports today, which have not been denied by ITV, Ofcom’s report will this week allow for big cuts in the broadcaster’s editorial commitments.

Luke Crawley, assistant general secretary of Bectu said that if passed, the plans would see the decimation of ITV’s local services.

‘ITV’s public position is that they don’t want to have an obligation to local news and they are going to reduce it and we think that’s wrong,’he said.

Crawley said Bectu opposed current proposals to cut down the number of ITV News regions and creating 18 ‘sub-regions’across the country, with two or three local offices merging to create one.

‘If the plan as it currently stands goes through you would create a news area that stretches from Penzance to Tewksbury, which is 200 miles away. There would be another from Southampton to Dover, which is 140 miles,’he said.

‘ITV will continue to broadcast news but it won’t be the same as we are used to….Decimation is the right word, it will be a shadow of its former self.”

Crawley also criticised the widely mooted suggestion that the BBC‘s licence fee could be ‘top-sliced’to fill the funding shortfall of up to £100m which Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said last week the broadcaster could face by 2012.

‘We think that’s really misguided – we are not blind to the idea that Channel 4 needs funds but that is robbing Peter to pay Paul and we oppose it strongly,’he said.

Bectu has been campaigning against the cuts alongside the National Union of Journalists which argued that cuts were avoidable in its own submission to Ofcom: “New News, Future News”.

In its 2006 Corporate Responsibility report ITV claimed to have broadcast 3,157 hours of regional news, reaching an average of 20.7m viewers a year – the equivalent to 37.1 per cent of the UK population.

A spokesman for ITV told Press Gazette today: ‘In announcing ITV’s Turnaround strategy a year ago we made clear the need to make annual savings of up to £40million in our public service broadcasting costs relating to regional news.

‘We want to do this in a carefully managed and structured way to minimise the impact on viewers. Following extensive consultations across the country, ITV has submitted proposals to Ofcom which we believe will achieve this outcome, preserving the best of ITV’s tradition of high quality, well resourced journalism.”

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