ITV backs proposal to share news facilities with BBC

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade has welcomed the BBC’s offer to share its newsgathering facilities and technology with the commercial broadcaster.

Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, Grade said a provisional agreement between the BBC and ITV that would make regional news ‘much more cost-efficient’would be announced shortly – and would allow ITV to continue providing regional news until at least 2016.

ITV has warned that the costs associated with providing public service broadcasting (PSB) such as news, documentaries and current affairs greatly outweigh the benefits.

The broadcaster has also suggested that it might hand back its PSB licence if a solution is not found soon, but Grade stressed that this was ‘not our preferred option”.

ITV, which has already announced 430 job cuts in regional news, has argued for some time that the channel’s current licence obligations, which set a fixed number of hours for regional news, are ‘rooted in a bygone age”.

‘Change cannot come soon enough,’Grade wrote today. ‘There is a solution. It’s a simple deal which will allow ITV to sustain its regional news services until at least 2016 – in partnership with the BBC – in return for the removal of the remaining residue of legacy regulation.”

Grade’s comments today come a week before media regulator Ofcom is due to publish its final report on the future funding of television journalism on ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

BBC director-general Mark Thompson outlined a series of partnership proposals in December, offering the corporation’s large network of regional studios, facilities, outside broadcast units to commercial rivals as an alternative to giving up a share of the licence fee.

The BBC is also proposing sharing some of the non-exclusive video news footage it gathers and pooling it with other broadcasters and the broader media – including newspapers and their websites.

‘ITV and the BBC would share facilities, buildings and technology across the UK – making commercially funded regional news much more cost-efficient,’Grade said of the proposals. ‘But they would still produce separate, competitive news services.”

Grade renewed his calls for ITV’s licence payments to be abolished, and for the quotas governing ‘where programmes are made and who produces them’be scrapped.

‘Without radical action, we’re heading towards a situation where commercial investment in original programming in the UK becomes unsustainable, leaving the BBC as the sole provider of quality, British programming,’Grade wrote.

‘And that can only be bad news for viewers.”

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