Staff 'devastated' by Newbury move

Charlton: "news will not suffer"

Meridian’s new managing director, Lindsay Charlton, told the 50-strong team last week that the Independent Television Commission had agreed plans to broadcast the Meridian West bulletin for the Thames Valley and north Hampshire from its Southamp-ton headquarters.

The Newbury operation will be downgraded to a bureau with a team of seven journalists, editors, producers, picture editors and camera crew. The senior editorial team is expected to move by October.

Up to nine posts will be made redundant as a result of the move, although a number of those are unfilled positions.

But while senior sources at Meridian said the move would save "millions of pounds" for the South and South East of England licensee, journalists said they were "devastated" by the move.

"We have fought to stay in Newbury since this issue was first raised last December and we are devastated at the cavalier fashion in which a highly successful news operation is being carved up," a spokesman for the journalists said.

"The move is apparently to save an undisclosed amount of money which we believe is a drop in the ocean when compared to the massive losses incurred by our owners, Granada, over ITV Digital."

The ITC said it had imposed conditions "to ensure the volume and quality of news for the Meridian West sub-region is maintained".

Charlton told Press Gazette that when he had spoken to staff he had been as candid as possible about the "precarious position of Meridian and ITV within the context of the downturn in advertising revenue over the past two years".

Charlton added: "I am determined that the quality of the news service will not suffer, but also very clear that we need to run it in a more efficient way."

by Julie Tomlin

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