NUJ slates Ofcom on ITV public service broadcast cut

By Caitlin Pike

Ofcom
has told ITV it can cut back its non-news regional programming from
three hours to 1.5 hours a week in the immediate future and cut this
further to just half an hour a week after the digital switch over in
2012.

The NUJ claims the reduction of ITV’s public service broadcasting
obligations for non-news programmes will damage regional programming.

NUJ
national broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin said: “Ofcom’s decision
on regional programming is the biggest abdication of duty since Edward
VIII and Mrs Simpson. The programmes Ofcom criticises as being
unwatched and unloved are deeply valued by viewers.

“This
decision must have more to do with the share price of ITV plc than with
the interest of public service broadcasting. It’s also a slap in the
face for our members who work under difficult conditions to make
programmes that people want to watch.”

The NUJ and Bectu plan to meet Media Secretary Tessa Jowell to make representations against the proposals.

The regional cut-back proposal has come in Ofcom’s final report of its review of Public Service Broadcasting.

The
media regulator also made recommendations for Channel 4 and the BBC,
and outlined plans for a new public service publisher to deliver public
service content across “new media platforms”.

Ofcom confirmed
that ITV will have to maintain the level of regional news output at 5.5
hours a week and this will continue beyond 2012.

Ofcom’s report
also recommends that Channel 4 should not receive any direct public
funding in the immediate future, but that the regulator will monitor
the channel’s performance and finances and conduct a further review in
2006-7.

On the BBC the report states it would be subject to the
same competition rules as commercial broadcasters, and that Ofcom
rather than BBC governors should assess the impact of any new services
from the corporation.

The BBC responded in a statement: “The
current arrangements were enshrined in the Communications Act only 18
months ago after full and detailed debate and scrutiny in Parliament.”

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