Ofcom deputy chairman Philip Graf has defended the regulator’s investigation into ITV’s proposed regional news cuts.
The former Trinity Mirror chief executive today insisted that Ofcom, which will publish its final report on the future of broadcast journalism tomorrow, had not ‘rolled over’ and given in to the company’s demands.
ITV has already announced 430 redundancies in its regional news division ahead of tomorrow’s Ofcom report, which will rule on the broadcaster’s plans to merge its 17 news regions into nine larger areas.
“Suggestions that this is about Ofcom rolling over may make good soundbites but it spectacularly misses the real point here,” Graf told the Television from the Nations and Regions conference in Salford this morning.
“Indeed the real dereliction would have been for Ofcom to fail to acknowledge that we are moving rapidly to a world where the old levers of control over nations and regions programming simply no longer work.”
Ofcom’s final report on public service broadcasting is the result of a lengthy investigation into how journalism and current affairs programming on ITV, Channel 4, Five and S4C can survive in the digital age.
Graf refused to comment on the contents of the report, but said it would stress the importance of television in delivering local news and would make recommendations “to ensure the long-term plural provision of news”.
“While the growth of online news remains impressive, real and continuing, it would be unrealistic at present to believe that the plural provision of news reporting with widespread reach and impact does not have linear television at its core,” he said.
Further decisions about funding the future of broadcast journalism will be made by the new communications minister, Stephen Carter, who is due to publish his draft report on Digital Britain next week.
Graf said many of the decisions required parliamentary intervention – something that could be difficult in the current climate of bank bail-outs and economic turmoil.
“We all know there are compelling reasons why it must not be forgotten. People have a clear desire for this content and the market alone is very unlikely to provide it,” he said.