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May 7, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:15am

STV News puts anchors on furlough as broadcaster alters coverage for pandemic

By Charlotte Tobitt

STV News has put half of its top anchors on furlough as it scales back operations to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The central Scotland edition of STV News at Six is normally anchored by John MacKay and Kelly Ann Woodland (both pictured) while the northern programme is presented by Norman Macleod and Andrea Brymer.

But MacKay – who has been with STV for 25 years – and Brymer are currently on furlough as STV airs a combined version of the programmes throughout the pandemic with representation for each region.

STV said the pairs would rotate, meaning MacKay and Brymer will swap with their counterparts after being on furlough for a few weeks to return to the air.

An STV spokesperson said: “Last month, STV moved from broadcasting two distinct programmes for the north and central region to a nightly programme for Scotland, to protect the health and wellbeing of our people whilst ensuring we deliver a trusted, vital news service.

“We have four News at Six presenters and are rotating the team to ensure representation of viewers from across Scotland. News is gathered from across the whole country, whilst keeping in line with Government safety guidelines.”

STV News at Six is reaching more than 500,000 people each night at the moment with a viewing share of more than 30 per cent, reaching 41 per cent on Tuesday night this week.

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A spokesperson said audiences have “risen substantially during this crisis as we continue to bring the facts and information our viewers rely on whilst ensuring we stay safe and help keep others safe too”.

Journalists and public service broadcasters are classed as key workers by both the Scottish Government and the UK as a whole.

But a trading update from STV on 26 March – three days after Boris Johnson announced the UK was going into lockdown – warned that Government restrictions were “having an increasing impact” on its advertising revenues.

In the broadcaster’s trading update published just two weeks earlier it was predicting single digit growth in regional advertising revenues – by the end of March STV said that “now looks challenging”.

STV staff put on furlough are being paid 100 per cent of their normal salaries as the broadcaster tops up the Government’s contribution of 80 per cent up to £2,500 per month.

Staff who are not on furlough and continue working will receive double their holiday entitlement for the lockdown period in return.

Other cost-saving measures have included shareholders’ final 2019 dividend payment being cancelled, the postponement of 2019 performance bonuses, and a voluntary 25 per cent pay cut for board members.

Read all Press Gazette’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and the news industry here

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