ITV results reveal broadcaster has already curbed regional programmes

ITV has already cut its regional budget by almost five per cent ahead of a drastic reorganisation of its news output over the next two years, the broadcaster revealed today.

In its end-of-year results, published this morning, ITV said its regional programming costs were reduced by £5m in 2007, down 4.2 per cent to £114m.

Regional news accounts for about three quarters of this budget, or £85m – a figure which could be cut to £40m if ITV’s regional news reorganisation is approved by Ofcom.

Under the proposals, the existing 17 news regions will be merged to form nine bigger regions. Widespread redundancies are expected as part of the cuts.

“We recognise that these will have implications in terms of regional staffing, but we believe that it is right to be open about our plans and their rationale,” the company said today.

“Our plans would ensure that every home in the country retains access to a high-quality ITV regional news service from 2009, while maximising investment in original network programming, where the core public interest lies.”

ITV said today it had completed the roll-out of its regional broadband TV news service, itvlocal.com, which claimed 750,000 unique users last December.

Executive chairman Michael Grade announced the regional news cuts as part of his five-year turnaround plan in September last year.

In his first year in charge, pre-tax profits have fallen 35 per cent to £188m, with revenue down five per cent to £2.1bn.

“The first priority for ITV was to stem the decline,” Grade said. “We have made real progress towards delivering on our growth strategy. The turnaround plan is on track.”

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