Mark Thompson: BBC close to signing ITV news deal

The BBC could agree a deal with ITV today about sharing regional news footage, the corporation’s director general has said.

Mark Thompson said the two sides were close to signing a memorandum of understanding that would save ITV up to £8m a year.

Press Gazette understands an announcement is likely to be made later this afternoon.

BBC bosses said the move could mean the same satellite trucks and pictures being used for routine stories, but it would not harm the editorial independence of either broadcaster.

Giving evidence to members of the Welsh Assembly, Thompson said: “In the context of national and regional news, this concept is of sharing certain base facilities – for example studios, for example satellite trucks – and so forth.

“We have been involved in very detailed discussions with ITV which involved people across England and Wales.

“We are very close indeed to signing, we believe, a memorandum of understanding with ITV. That signing could be as close as later today.”

He added: “That will, I believe, see ITV calculating that the kind of partnership we are talking about could reduce their costs by something like seven or eight million pounds per year once it is fully deployed.”

He said it was already common practice internationally for broadcasters to share resources. The same images of last year’s Mumbai shootings were used on channels around the world.

News bulletins might co-operate on some stories, but broadcasters would keep a “complete editorial brain and different running order”.

BBC Wales controller Menna Richards said the agreement would mean pooling resources and raw material on stories where news crews were often doubling up already.

ITV would still be “calling the shots” over its own news service.

“If you have a press conference already … you look at Wales Tonight [ITV] and you look at Wales Today [BBC] and you see the same pictures because it’s a single press conference,” she said.

“That’s the limit of it. That’s the kind of thing we are talking about.

“We are not talking about investigations being shared, we are not talking about journalists being shared, we are not talking about special correspondents being shared. They would still be separate.”

She said BBC Wales would not be sharing studios with ITV Wales because the corporation provides a news service for Welsh-language channel S4C.

The BBC Trust, its governing body, had made it clear that “plurality” for viewers had to be maintained as part of the arrangement, she said.

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