UTV campaign heads to Stormont

The campaign to save UTV's local programmes will go to the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont on 20 November 2008.

Save UTV logo

BECTU and the NUJ will make a presentation to the Assembly’s Culture Arts and Leisure Committee about Ofcom’s PSB Review and its impact on Northern Ireland.

BECTU will use the opportunity to highlight the campaign to save UTV’s local programmes [update - was link to website now closed due to resolution of dispute] which this week attracted support from the Ulster Unionist Party.

Campaigners are encouraging supporters to write to their Northern Ireland Assembly representatives to seek their help to prevent a 20% cut in UTV staff, linked to equally damaging cuts in programme output.

UTV is seeking up to 35 job losses amongst staff in its television division and has not ruled out compulsory redundancies.

This week, Ulster Unionist MLA and Department of Culture Arts and Leisure spokesperson, David McNarry, expressed his deep felt concerns about the impact of the proposed cuts on audience viewing, on the coverage of politics in Northern Ireland and on the local skills base. Mr McNarry has also asked to meet with UTV representatives to discuss his concerns.

“It is clear from the company's statements to date that UTV is unable to provide any real justification for its plans to slash our members jobs and local programming.”

BECTU has condemned Ofcom's proposals for commercial broadcasting as a betrayal of audiences. ITV plc announced plans to cut 429 jobs in regional news as a result of Ofcom’s announcement.

Several high profile initiatives have taken place to challenge the regulator's supposed defence of public service broadcasting; the presentation to the Northern Ireland Assembly will follow a parliamentary debate last month, a strong campaign at ITV Border and representations in other parts of the UK.

BECTU has challenged UTV over its decision to press ahead with cuts when Ofcom's PSB review is not due to conclude until February 2009. BECTU awaits the start of formal redundancy consultations with UTV despite several requests for a meeting.

The union believes that UTV is reneging on its commitments to the Northern Ireland audience and, furthermore, that management has no financial need to make the cuts it is seeking.

BECTU National Official, Pat Styles, commented: "It is clear from the company's statements to date that UTV is unable to provide any real justification for its plans to slash our members jobs and local programming. UTV remains a highly profitable company and is well placed to continue to meet its obligations to its audience and to its staff."

UTV's interim results for the six months ended 30 June 2008 were accompanied by a statement from the Chairman which said, "It is pleasing to be able to report a further improvement in pre-tax profits, before exceptional items, which have risen by 12% to £10.4m (2007: £9.3m) in the first six months of the year".

Pat Styles concluded: "UTV has made profits year after year after year. Management has a responsibility to its audience and to staff whose skills and loyalty have made the company a success. We hope that our campaign, backed by calls from all sections of the community, will encourage UTV to reconsider its proposals in the best interests of everyone."

Saturday 8 November 2008