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ITV u-turn on regional news?

18 March 2010

Signals from Archie Norman of a possible u-turn in ITV's position on regional news have been welcomed by BECTU.

Earlier this week (Tuesday), ITV's chairman was heavily quoted in the Media Guardian suggesting that the company is re-evaluating its commitment to its regional news output.

What our members need right now is a period of stability well beyond 2012 so they can do what they do best, make great news for ITV

David Beevers, BECTU’s ITV official said:

“If this is true then it is to be welcomed. For some time now, BECTU and the NUJ have been in discussions with senior ITV management over the future of regional news and the joint unions have always made it plain that the preferred choice for union members is a properly funded future with ITV.

"The unions have argued that the evening regional news programme is the springboard to the company's primetime evening schedule and its value in delivering an audience for the evening schedule is priceless.

"Regional news delivers more viewers across the network than Sky’s national news service and regularly equals or exceeds in some regions the nearest competition from the BBC.

"Regional news is an intrinsic part of the ITV brand and makes the channel what it is today, the country’s leading commercial channel.”

BECTU has made the point that funding regional news need not involve dipping into any part of the licence fee. The union believes there is an available solution; the abolition of the punitive CRR regulation on advertising rates coupled with a small increase in airtime for commercials during the peak time schedule, could secure the service.

"BECTU has already raised the issue of extra advertising minutage with the regulator, Ofcom.

David Beevers concluded: “Our members are the best in the business when it comes to making regional news. The current services are pared to the bone but remain effective at delivering exceptional value for money. What our members need right now is a period of stability well beyond 2012 so they can do what they do best, make great news for ITV."

Since the beginning of the year the industry has been focussed on a number of bids from different media alliances to provide alternative news services to those currently available in the Borders, Wales and Scotland. The scheme is part of a government-backed pilot. A decision on the successful bids is expected before the end of the month.

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