News head post goes in Meridian cuts

Cooper: ‘sad and sorry’ to leave

Meridian Television has axed the position of head of news in the wake of proposals to scrap 175 jobs.

Andy Cooper will be leaving the broadcaster next month to become output editor for BBC North East’s regional news bulletin, Look North. His brief will be taken over by Mark Southgate, Meridian’s controller of regional programmes.

As deputy director of Meridian Television news in 1998, Cooper famously told his staff to “get meaner” with BBC rivals after the commercial channel’s three regional news programmes were beaten in the ratings by BBC South Today in the previous year.

Prior to that, Cooper was Meridian Television news’s regional editor at Southampton and then news editor.

Cooper said he’d had “a good spell” at Meridian. “There are a lot of changes at ITV and these things happen. It’s part of the world we live in at the moment. I shall be sad and sorry to go but it’s time to do something else,” he added.

He begins his BBC job on 2 February.

Scrapping the head of news position comes after Meridian detailed 66 proposed positions it plans to keep in the revamped news operation.

“We are proposing a small reduction in the number of reporter posts for each news service,” a Meridian document handed to staff explained.

“We anticipate some posts going in total from the ranks of news and sports reporters,” it added.

However, managing director Lindsay Charlton insisted” “There will be no reduction in Meridian’s journalistic resource. If you look at the detail, we’re talking about having more – different sorts of correspondents. It’s being reorganised. There will be fewer technical jobs in journalism in the future.”

Meridian journalists and the NUJ says there is a discrepancy between Charlton’s claim that there will be no reduction in resources and incoming ITV News group director Clive Jones’s insistence to the Commons Media Select Committee that: “All we’re talking about is moving a presenter and maybe a technical director.”

“The reality is both news presenters and the sports presenter will be based in Hampshire, with no sports cover at all in the Kent office. It’s going down from three people to one, so to say they are not changing the way we newsgather is complete nonsense,” a senior journalist told Press Gazette.

Journalists and management are to meet on 12 January. An adjournment debate was set to take place in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

By Wale Azeez

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