The BBC and ITV have reached a provisional agreement to share regional news facilities and studios – in a deal that ITV estimates could save up to £7m a year by 2016.
The two sides have today signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding, which is subject to further discussion but could come into effect by next year if approved.
Under the proposals, the BBC and ITV would share newsroom and studio facilities in eight regions in England and Wales. Up to 20 of ITV’s small and medium news bureaux would move into these centres.
Some non-exclusive video footage would also be shared on a pool basis, with an additional charge if ITV chose to use the footage for non-news purposes.
In Wales, the news teams would be co-located at a single broadcast site in Cardiff by 2015, although gallery and studio functions would remain separate.
A monitoring board will be set up to oversee the partnership and resolve any disputes.
In a statement issued this afternoon, the BBC and ITV stressed that editorial content would remain completely separate and nothing would prevent either side from generating their own exclusives.
“A key objective would be to ensure privacy for both parties within shared buildings to allow original journalism to be created and delivered,” the statement said.
BBC deputy director-general Mark Byford added: “The BBC and ITV will now continue our discussions around what would be an innovative and ground-breaking proposal.”
ITV estimates that the partnership could save £1.5m in 2011, rising to about £7.1m a year by 2016. It said regional news currently costs about £55m a year to produce.
Its chief operating officer John Cresswell said: “Plurality in regional news is an important part of PSB and we welcome this step in helping to support it.”
In a joint statement, the National Union of Journalists and broadcasting union Bectu said there had been no formal consultation about the proposals.
“These conversations have been cloaked in secrecy and their progression hidden from staff and unions alike,” they said.
“This despite repeated calls for clarification and serious concerns being raised by members in both organisations.
“Both the BBC and ITV say that their intention is to protect diverse regional output for the longer term.
The joint unions have expressed serious doubts and believe that this proposal has far more to do with cost-cutting and a possible further risk to jobs, that it has to do with the delivery of effective news services.”