Regional ITV job fears as merger gets green light

Charlton leaves after meeting staff

The NUJ is gearing up for a long and hard fight to save journalists’ jobs in regional broadcasting after Granada and Carlton were given the go-ahead to merge and form a single ITV plc.

The threat to jobs posed by the merger will be discussed in an ITV joint unions meeting on Tuesday.

However, fears of losses resulting from consolidation of regional newsrooms have increased after Meridianowner Granada’s plan to close its studios at New Hythe in Kent were leaked last week.

A senior Granada executive is said to have told guests at an industry dinner that the studios – from where local bulletin Meridian Tonight is broadcast – will close in nine months and be replaced by a regional centre based in Fareham, Hampshire.

The leak led to outrage and unease among journalists, prompting a “very intense” meeting on Monday in which the NUJ Maidstone chapel passed a resolution condemning the plan and a demand for a full apology to newsroom staff from management.

“We were shocked to learn from an aside at a dinner that Granada is considering moving its studios from Maidstone to a site in Hampshire,” it said. “We are disgusted that staff have been treated in such a cavalier manner and we believe any move outside our broadcasting area can only have detrimental consequences for our programme and our relationship with our viewers. We appeal to Granada to reconsider this ill-thought out and illconceived idea.”

Lindsay Charlton, Meridian’s managing director, visited journalists at the New Hythe studios on Monday in a bid to allay their fears.

“The distinct impression we get is that this is coming from Granada and not from Meridian,” Iain McBride, deputy father of chapel at Maidstone, told Press Gazette.

“We feel this is a decision being made in Manchester by people who don’t know the area. To site us 100 miles away from the area we broadcast to seems ludicrous. And if they’ve taken this decision with us, what are the implications for [Carlton] Central with its three newsrooms?” he added.

Charlton said Meridian was “committed to providing three separate news services” and the company would retain a full newsgathering presence in Kent.

There is already unease in London over newsroom consolidation, where proposals for the incorporation of LNN into ITN are being considered. The NUJ has warned that concentration of ownership is likely to have a negative impact on TV journalism.

Paul McLaughlin, the NUJ’s broadcast organiser, said a single ITV was a threat to the diversity of opinion and information on commercial terrestrial television.

While welcoming “the end of the uncertainty”, he said: “ITV must be in a position to compete favourably with the BBC in terms of television news and it is not effectively doing so at the moment. The problem we’ve seen in recent months and years has been a detectable retreat from commitments around news and from resourcing.”

He cited earlier cuts atMeridian, Anglia and Tyne Tees. “If this merger is put to us as being good for the viewer and good for ITV then let

By Wale Azeez

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