NUJ attacks digital 'threat' to ITV Wales

The NUJ has warned Welsh politicians of the dangers of relying on newstyle digital channels to deliver television news to Wales.

General secretary Jeremy Dear strongly criticised the suggestion that the Public Service Publisher (PSP) channel proposed by Ofcom could take over the local programming and news tasks currently carried out by ITV.

Both the NUJ and Bectu were addressing the National Assembly culture committee in Cardiff, which is preparing to respond to the BBC charter review, and the Ofcom review of public service broadcasting.

Assembly members are concerned at the prospect of a reduction in local output from the BBC, ITV and S4C in view of the weakness of the Welsh-based press. London dailies account for 85 per cent of newspaper sales in Wales.

Dear warned assembly members against “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”. He urged the creation of a PSP for Wales, but warned that such a creation could lead to a repeat of past battles over money for programmes and visibility at popular times.

Dear said: “We urge you to work with all those who believe that ITV1 should maintain its commitment.” He added that 200 ITV Wales jobs and £10mof programming were at risk.

In evidence, Bectu stated: “There is a strong feeling that Ofcom, while advocating plurality in general terms, would deny it to Wales if ITV were allowed to withdraw from making programmes by and from the nation.”

A glimmer of hope emerged in the Commons where Plaid Cymru MP Simon Thomas said “ITV in the Welsh context is not just a regional broadcaster, but the national English-language broadcaster”.

Minister Estelle Morris replied: “In the regions of England, it probably is the news that is most important and of most interest. The position in the other countries is different, and Ofcom is giving the point special attention.”

Labour assembly member Leighton Andrews has said Wales should demand a major share of the £300m Ofcomhas available for a PSP. The current S4C Welsh-language channel costs £96m a year.

By Clive Betts

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