Michael Grade’s plan to slash regional news budgets by half has sparked a countrywide revolt among MPs.
Now they are pressing media regulator Ofcom to intervene to force ITV to think again about merging regional news operations such as Tyne Tees with Border, West and West country, East and West Midlands and Meridian and Thames Valley.
Grade’s cutbacks, announced in June, would reduce regional news budgets from £90m to £40- £50m and reduce the number of ITV’s regions from 17 to nine.
MPs claim the mergers undermine ITV’s public service obligations and require Ofcom’s approval which they say should not be granted.
The rebellion has prompted three Commons motions, all of them attracting support.
One from Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, calls on Ofcom to reject the merger of ITV Border and Tyne Tees news which it says would result in a much more limited news operation in Carlisle to cover the south of of Scotland and the north the England.
Lewes Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker is spearheading demands for the Government to press Ofcom to reject plans to merge Meridian regionl news programmes which he says would radically reduce the provision of local news in the South East.
John Grogan, Labour MP for Selby, has enlisted the backing of 50 MPs for a plea for Ofcom and ITV to work together to come up with a solution.
‘Regional news has been a key obligation of the Channel 3 licence holder since its launch in 1954 providing strong competition to the BBC,’Grogan said.