MPs warn Ofcom over ITV job cuts

The Nottingham studios and, inset, angry staff

MPs have publicly warned media regulator Ofcom that it must be more vigilant in safeguarding journalists’ jobs from ITV cuts, writes David Rose.

A House of Commons watchdog committee has rebuked Ofcom for too readily accepting ITV management’s claim that the closure of Meridian’s Maidstone’s studios did not represent a downgrading of quality regional news coverage.

The committee has registered its alarm that the Meridian cutback, and the closure of ITV Central’s studios at Nottingham, “may be part of a trend developing in ITV local and regional news coverage throughout the country”.

ITV is committed to extensive regional and subregional news coverage in excess of that offered by the BBC.

But, in a hard-hitting report to Media Secretary Tessa Jowell, the all-party media committee said: “We agree with the NUJ that this will prove a hollow boast if the relevant programmes are produced by people who do not live in the communities they are serving and have no affinities with them. The committee looks to Ofcom to monitor the situation closely and to take steps to safeguard the present high quality of programmes in all sub-regions across the whole country.

“The potential threat posed by over-consolidation of regional and sub-regional news production centres will provide an early, major and crucial test of credibility of Ofcom.”

The MPs were critical of the way Meridian has been conducting talks with the NUJ over plans to transfer news productions from New Hythe, Maidstone, to Fareham near Southampton.

“The present staff believe that the production of regional news for Kent, Sussex and South Essex, outside the region by non-resident reporters, will affect the quality of the news produced.”

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