ITV 10-year licence renewal deal should safeguard national and regional broadcast news

ITV and and Channel 5’s regional and national news provision may have been secured for another ten years following an announcement from the Government today.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller today agreed that ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5 could have their broadcasting licences renewed for another ten years from 2015 – provided they protect existing public-service broadcasting provision.

The move looks like good news for ITV Regional News, which employs 600 editorial staff, and for ITN – which provides national news bulletins for ITV and Channel 5.

Miller said today that she accepts the recommendation of Ofcom that public service broadcasting provision should not be eroded any further. In 2008, ITV cut more than 400 regional news jobs as it merged a number of news regions and closed studios.

In a letter to Ofcom confirming the proposed licence renewal, Miller said today: “I agree with you that ‘the level of the current obligations faced by the PSBs is approaching a set of minimum requirements for contribittion to public service purposes’ and I am determined to see these preserved (if not strengthened) in the next ten years. Therefore, in any future settlement, I would expect to see commitment to these requirements from the licence holders.”

She said she accepted concerns about proposals to cut ITV programming for the south of Scotland and said: “I consider both the quality and plurality of news provision to be of the utmost importance and look to find a way forward with ITV plc which addresses these concerns…”

A period of negotiations is now expected where Ofcom seeks to thrash out a deal with the licensees on what exact level of public service broadcasting they are required to provide. If necessary, Miller has offered to extend existing licences for a year to allow this to take place.

The existing licences expire on 31 December 2014 and negotiations are expected to have been concluded by then.

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