Union warns of BBC backlash over ITV sharing plan

The BBC is facing a staff revolt over plans to share some of its news footage and broadcast facilities with ITV, a trade union has claimed.

The chairman of the BBC division at broadcasting union Bectu, Mark Scrimshaw, told a conference today that BBC journalists and producers were concerned that the sharing proposals effectively meant they would be compensating for lost jobs elsewhere in the media.

The BBC outlined a series of ideas yesterday to pool its resources with other public service broadcasters, especially ITV, and potentially national and regional newspapers.

It estimates that better co-operation – including sharing raw non-exclusive video news footage from local events – would benefit the wider media industry to the tune of at least £120m a year.

The proposals come at a time when ITV is reorganising its regional news provision and cutting 430 jobs in the regions, about half of which are understood to be in editorial.

“If the BBC thinks that our members are going to do the jobs of the 430 members of various unions that ITV are laying off in regional TV, they’ve got another thing coming,” Scrimshaw told the Westminster Media Forum in London today.

He later added: “I think our response would be: over our dead bodies.”

The BBC argues that sharing non-exclusive video would avoid the duplication of sending two rival news teams out to an event, while still maintaining editorial independence.

But the corporation acknowledged that “regional news partnerships clearly raise complex operational issues and further discussions are needed to design the best model for delivery”.

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons has said any partnership proposals would be subject to a full public value test, and stressed it was important that “coming together as partners must not imply a reducation in competition”.

In an email memo to staff yesterday, the BBC’s newly promoted controller of English regions, David Holdsworth, said the “ambitious idea” of sharing with rival ITV at a regional level would take some getting used to.

“If you’ve spent an entire career trying to beat ITV to a story there is a lot to take in here, and if this happens it will be a real change in culture for us,” he said.

The BBC’s proposals are part of its submission to Ofcom’s review into the future of public service broadcasting. A final statement from the media regulator is expected in the New Year.

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