Meridian staff await studio decision

Charlton: announcement soon

Meridian Television will make an announcement to staff about the future of its Maidstone studios next week, managing director Lindsay Charlton has told Press Gazette.

Meridian owner Granada last week submitted a last-minute bid to the Independent Television Commission seeking approval for its proposals.

The broadcaster said its plans would involve transferring part of the operations from Maidstone, rather than complete closure.

There is speculation that much of the Maidstone operations will be moved to a news centre near Southampton that would serve areas once covered by the Maidstone, Southampton and Newbury studios.

But the ITC was not approached by Granada until after details of a possible closure of the New Hythe studios were leaked (Press Gazette, 9 October 2003).

The ITC must be consulted by broadcasters about changes to news operations that would effectively alter the terms of their licence.

Sarah Thane, ITC director of programmes, wrote to local MP Derek Wyatt after the leak confirming that “the ITC knew nothing of this plan, before the leak”, despite Meridian being aware that it would require regulatory approval.

Wyatt told Press Gazette he had “moved quickly” by raising the possible closure of the studios at Maidstone with the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport.

The committee will examine the Granada-Carlton merger and the implications for news operations in a public meeting on 9 December.

“I think Granada claimed that they’re going to modernise to the tune of £3m the whole collating of news – we’ll let’s see if that’s true,” Wyatt said.

Lewes MP Norman Baker also criticised proposals by Meridian TV to cut back local news expenditure, reducing the Maidstone staff and relocating operations to outside of the region it served.

By Wale Azeez

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