Meridian agrees to editorial demands

Angry: staff protested when the cutbacks were announced last year

There was a breakthrough in the longrunning negotiations at Meridian Television this week after management finally agreed to some of the demands made by editorial staff.

After a meeting with staff and NUJ representatives on Tuesday, Meridian management agreed that the post of deputy news editor – one of eight editorial posts earmarked to be scrapped when the studios in New Hythe, Kent, close – will be reinstated.

According to Mark Southgate, Meridian’s controller of regional programmes, who led negotiations on behalf of management, the news operation will introduce the new role of deputy broadcast journalist (content), “which to all intents and purposes, staff would see as a role in line with the deputy news editor role that we currently have”.

The number of trainee broadcast journalist posts has been reduced from eight to five, and the “Maidstone subregion” will retain a sports presenter post. This moves away from plans to transfer it to a pool of three presenters working across the region based at the new Whitely headquarters.

“We argued that sports coverage of the Kent area could not be done from Hampshire and they have agreed that this is the case,” said a source close to the negotiations. “We had also said that that number of trainee broadcast journalists was too many to manage, and they’ve agreed on that as well.”

“These negotiations hopefully give the lie to the idea that we didn’t listen to a thing that they [the NUJ] have said,” said Lindsay Charlton, Meridian Television’s managing director.

However, haggling between management and staff continues on other issues, including demands by staff to change the job description for reporters who edit their own material.

At present, management insists the addition of editing to reporting duties does not constitute a change to the journalist’s role.

“We have indicated that it is our belief the reporter job, while taking on additional responsibilities such as editing, remains a reporter job. Our view is that the core responsibilities of that role remain as they have always been,” Southgate added.

The question of more pay for the extra duties is also up for negotiation “further down the line”.

By Wale Azeez

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