ITV threatened with strike over regional news job cuts

McLaughlin: NUJ will ballot in the event of compulsory redundancies

The NUJ has warned that the newly merged ITV network will face a strike if it sacks journalists.

Speaking at the union’s annual delegate meeting in Liverpool this week, national broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin said: “If they propose compulsory redundancies of journalists in ITV we will ballot and we will win that ballot and if we win that ballot we will strike – we will hit them where it hurts.”

McLaughlin told Press Gazette he expected any industrial action to be taken on a regional basis.

The conference passed a motion urging ITV to maintain the 19 locally produced regional news programmes and guarantee existing levels of budgeting, jobs and programme quality.

Media minister Estelle Morris this week refused to intervene to safeguard ITV’s news-gathering operations in the East Midlands, despite a growing revolt among Labour MPs.

The minister insisted that so long as ITV kept journalists in the area it was within its rights to close its Nottingham studios and move its operations to Birmingham.

Her refusal to act came as MPs openly accused media regulator Ofcom of siding with ITV and failing to safeguard the viewers.

Fury over ITV cutbacks in the East Midlands and elsewhere prompted 101 MPs – nearly one in six – to put their names to a Commons motion calling on the Government “to protect the regional programme-making structure of independent television”.

Raising the Nottingham cutbacks in a Commons debate, Labour MP for Mansfield, Alan Meale, told Morris: “To move the production from Nottingham to Birmingham would be a disaster and would lead to the wholesale break-up of news teams and the dislocation of operations.”

But the minister, a Birmingham MP, said it was up to Ofcom to ensure companies met targets for local programme production.

“As long as the journalists who gather the news are in the East Midlands and there is a sub-regional target for East Midlands news, as opposed to West Midlands news, there is a powerful argument that the target has been reached,” Morris said. “However, if the journalists move, Ofcom can intervene to say the targets are not being met.”

Meale attacked Ofcom for sending MPs a letter attempting to justify the ITV move. He said: “I thought I was receiving a letter from the chief executive of ITV – it read exactly like that.

It is not the job of Ofcom to do the dirty deals and business of ITV.”

By Dominic Ponsford and David Rose

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