ITV chairman Michael Grade is to meet MPs to answer concerns that Rupert Murdoch's BskyB controversial shareholding will lead to the loss of journalists' jobs.
Grade has agreed to meet the all-party ITV Parliamentary group and the media group at the House of Commons on 21 March to speak about his vision for the future of ITV. But MPs intend to press him about their concerns that BSkyB's 17.9 per cent stake in ITV could result in ITN losing its news contract when it comes up for renewal, and to the loss of regional broadcasting jobs.
Grade's offer to speak to the MPs was made before Industry Secretary Alistair Darling's intervention this week. Darling asked Ofcom, the media regulator, to review whether the 17.9 per cent holding "raises public interest concerns about the number of different owners of media enterprises" in Britain. ITV and BSkyB had previously rejected an invitation from MPs to meet them to discuss the ikssue. "Mr Grade's offer was spontaneous," an insider said. "He wants to speak about his vision for the future of ITV."
The meeting will be a private one. Labour MP John Grogan, who has been leading a campaign, backed by 67 MPs, to persuade the Government to refer the matter to Ofcom, said that there were concerns that ITN would lose its news contract when it came up for renewal. ITN had previously beaten of attempts by Sky News to replace it as ITV's news provider.
Ofcom is already considering whether the transaction represents a change of control of one of more of the licences held by ITV. If it finds such a change has taken place it will conduct a change of control review, examining the effects of the change on ITV's licensed services such as news and current affairs programmes and regional programming.