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STV News reliant on young 'inexperienced' journalists after losing 'significant number' of 'valuable' staff in restructure, says union rep

STV News is now “highly dependent on young, multi-skilled, inexperienced journalists”, a union representative has warned following a restructure that resulted in around 30 people taking voluntary redundancy.

The Scottish broadcaster announced in May last year that it planned to cut 34 jobs in its news division and another 25 with the closure of its loss-making channel STV2.

National Union of Journalists members voted almost unanimously to strike, but never took industrial action after STV backed down on plans for compulsory redundancies.

STV confirmed to Press Gazette this week that its overarching restructure to establish three distinct divisions – broadcast, digital and productions – is complete.

Within the broadcast division, a “transformation programme” of STV News is well advanced with new members of staff and those redeployed from STV2 all in post.

Those who took voluntary redundancy as part of the restructure are believed to have included journalists, production assistants and camera operators.

After an initial consultation process in June, certain roles, including in some STV2 news programming which continued on the main channel, were subject to further review in August and December.

Paul McManus, Scottish negotiations officer for union BECTU, said it had been difficult to track numbers, which he put in the mid 30s, because at the same time the BBC has recruited a number of camera operators and journalists from STV for its new Scottish channel, set to launch this year.

He added that despite the drop in number in redundancies from the original announcement of about 60, STV has “still lost a significant number of committed valuable staff”.

John Toner, NUJ national organiser for Scotland, told Press Gazette: The NUJ is satisfied that no one was forced to leave and that all redundancies were achieved voluntarily. We did make our concerns about the process known while it was continuing.”

He added that some members of staff are still settling into their new roles and that the NUJ is “working with management to address any issues that arise”.

“We expect this to continue for some time,” he said.

An STV spokesperson told Press Gazette staff had there has already been “significant investment in training and equipment to facilitate news gathering and enable improved connectivity”.

Further training will take place in 2019 to provide “extensive skills development and investment in further enhancement of our digital offering”.

Journalists will now have to create content for both digital and broadcast, but have been told to “concentrate on doing fewer stories in the future”, according to an internal email sent by STV director of channels Bobby Hain which was shared with MSPs by the NUJ last year.

STV chief executive Simon Pitts told MSPs in June: “Everyone will be a digital journalist – that is the big change here.”

McManus said: “Before Christmas those who were learning the new skills had back up from craft camera operators.

“Now they don’t have that back up and… it’s wait and see is this going to fall apart or are they going to get through it? It’s a very stressful period for everybody who’s still there.”

He added that STV News was now “really highly dependent on young multi-skilled inexperienced journalists”.

Bobby Hain, STV’s managing director of broadcast, said: “It’s no secret that news habits are changing and our news team is focused on serving both our digital and television audiences in 2019.

“Our transformation programme ensures STV News has the skills, technology and connectivity to continue to provide comprehensive and trusted news coverage across platforms with a refreshed editorial strategy led by head of news, Steven Ladurantaye.

“The performance across television and online platforms remains extremely strong.

“By providing a news service which meets the changing demands of our audience, we are confident STV News can maintain our hard-fought reputation as Scotland’s best, most comprehensive and most trusted source of news.”

Ladurantaye, former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation managing editor, was appointed head of news and current affairs in October, while STV News also announced a number of other changes to its editorial leadership team.

STV told Press Gazette that after a revamp of STV News at Six (pictured, presenter Kelly-Ann Woodland) across the central belt of Scotland it has become the best watched news programme in the country on any channel.

The programme’s audience was up 7 per cent year-on-year across 2018 with a 30 per cent increase in viewing share, the spokesperson added.

STV News at Six, and the channel’s other regional programming, will launch in HD in the first half of this year as part of a new deal between STV and Sky announced last week.

Picture: STV screenshot

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