Ofcom leak shakes staff confidence

ITV could get the OK to cut £40million from regional news and the BBC still faces “top-slicing” says a leak to the Guardian today.

BECTU issued the following press release today in response to the leak of a key Ofcom document:

Press Release

For immediate use

28 July 2008

News today, via the Guardian, that Ofcom intends to give ITV the go-ahead to cut £40million from its regional news spend will further undermine ITV staff’s confidence in the independence of Ofcom, says media and entertainment union, BECTU.

Questions will be asked about whether the regulator is fulfilling its own brief: where is the promised examination of whether public service broadcasting should continue to be provided by a variety of sources? The leak comes barely a month after the close of the first stage of consultation and several months before the second phase is due to start.

The Guardian’s report on the leak of Ofcom’s 2nd stage blueprint, indicates that once again ITV could get its way in being allowed to further turn its back on its public service obligations.

“Yet again its looks like Ofcom is prepared to see the ITV audience short-changed and ITV staff forced to bear the brunt of poor management and even poorer vision by the people in charge.” commented a BECTU spokesperson.

“Ofcom’s first PSB review, which concluded in 2005, led to the loss of more than 100 jobs in ITV regional news; since then at least as many jobs again have been lost as new technology has been introduced and services have been restructured.” the spokesperson continued.

The leak also suggests that the planned attack on the BBC’s funding continues to be a live option.

“This review is supposed to maintain and strengthen PSB provision for the future. How will that be achieved by allowing ITV to have the status that goes with being a PSB provider whilst its responsibilities are diluted? And how will PSB be future-proofed if income for the most successful provider of all, the BBC, is top-sliced?” asked BECTU.

By the end of 2008, the BBC is set to have reduced its headcount by 4,000 since 2005.

Commenting on the Guardian’s report that Ofcom plans some good news for campaigners to save ITV’s Border and Westcountry licences, BECTU said:

“These campaigns deserve to be successful because they reflect the essence of what ITV should be in the regions: good quality and properly resourced news which is relevant to the region. However, we should be under no illusions that a cut in funds will mean less coverage of regional issues.” said the spokesperson.

BECTU will continue its support for the campaigns at Border and Westcountry and for the national Save ITV News and Save PSB campaigns which are being run in conjunction with the NUJ.

For more information contact Sharon Elliott, BECTU Communications Officer on 020 7346 0900 or by email to selliott@bectu.org.uk

Note for Editors: BECTU’s response to Ofcom’s 2nd PSB Review.

Monday 28 July 2008