BECTU response to CMS Select Committee inquiry into Carlton/Granada merger

9 December 2003

BECTU response to the UK Parliament Culture Media and Sport inquiry into the ITV Carlton/Granada merger.

  1. BECTU is the recognised trade union at both Carlton TV and Granada TV for technical, production and administrative staff. In the light of the companies' behaviour since the merger announcement, we are now seriously concerned at the implications of the merger for public service broadcasting (PSB) and in particular for regional programme production.
  2. As we indicated in our submission to Government on the Communications Bill and to the Competition Commission on the Carlton/Granada merger, we believe PSB regional programme production has been and should remain the defining characteristic of ITV. For PSB regional broadcasting to remain a meaningful concept we believe it entails the following requirements.
    • a broad range of regionally originated programming of high quality
    • the use of the full range of regionally-based staff, freelances and production facilities
    • the maintenance of a wide spread of regional studio facilities and the avoidance of any further studio closures
  3. We believe this reflects not just the interests of those who work in regional ITV but also a broader public interest on behalf of viewers who have consistently expressed support (in audience figures and in survey responses) for a strong regional ITV presence.
  4. We note that the Communications Act 2003 contains specific requirements for a 'significant proportion' of regionally-originated programming for the ITV network (Section 286) and a 'significant proportion' of regionally-oriented programming (Section 287).
  5. We believe that developments since the merger announcement run contrary to these requirements including:
    • at Anglia TV: a further round of redundancy discussions
    • at Granada Manchester: speculation on the future of the Quay Street site, with possible implications for jobs and facilities
  6. We are particularly concerned about the proposal to lose 175 jobs (approximately half of the current staff) at Meridian Broadcasting, whose main base is in Southampton.
    • This severely depletes Meridian's programme making workforce and consequently the company's capacity to produce a broad range of material.
    • Sports and Factual programming will be particularly affected and the region less well served by the removal of these departments from the Meridian production hub. Much of such programme-making appears destined to be pulled back into London, contrary to commitments on regionality.
    • Regional centres should be capable of producing regional news, features and network production. Unfortunately, Meridian now appears to be in transition from producing this broad range of output to being a shell only capable of regional news.
  7. The ITC's agreement in May 2002 with Carlton and Granada on the Standardisation of Regional Hours was supposed to result in an increase in 2003 in the quality of regional output and in better programme slots. There is no evidence that this has yet happened. To the contrary, the consequences of the merger appear to point in the opposite direction.
  8. We believe that Carlton and Granada should be held strongly to their regional programming commitments and to the requirements in the Communications Act. We believe they should be required to justify their recent actions in the light of this and to give renewed and explicit commitments to regional PSB programming in the future. We look forward to the outcome of the Inquiry.
Last updated 19 March 2004