Meridian rejects staff plan to keep open Kent studios

Staff protesting in November

Journalists were in low spirits at Meridian Television this week after their alternative plan for staff to remain in the New Hythe studios at Maidstone in Kent was rejected by management.

As part of its overhaul of its coverage in the South East, ITV intends to relocate and pool Meridian’s technical staff in Hampshire, away from editorial staff, in a bid to save money.

The local NUJ insists that ITV’s costsaving targets could be met without separating and relocating the staff.

But the union has now returned to the drawing board to draft another proposal to present to management.

“Based on the limited amount of information we’ve been able to get from them, it would have met all their requirements,” said one Meridian journalist close to negotiations.

“Basically, we want the dedicated people working on our service based here [in Kent]. We think – not unfairly – that we’re all part of a team that’s worked together since day one.”

ITV was said to have rejected the plan on “three or four points”.

A meeting between the union and Meridian management is set for next week, in which the company is expected to set out its reasons for rejecting the NUJ’s proposals.

One senior Meridian journalist said there was “a growing feeling of despair among people and a mood for industrial action among some. People are just genuinely fed up now.”

In a new development, the Meridian viewers’ query answering service is moving from Kent to Birmingham.

“So, in future if there’s a query from Margate, it will be someone in Birmingham answering the phones who doesn’t know the area, which is absolutely ludicrous,” he said. “It is the death of ITV in the regions. Nobody should be in any doubt about that.”

By Wale Azeez

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