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ITV local news cut by third

23 July 2013

Cuts to local news in ITV's regional services are totally unacceptable, given the broadcaster is now hugely profitable.

The National Union of Journalists has challenged the regulator Ofcom for allowing ITV to chip away at providing full coverage of local news when the new ten-year licenses for ITV, STV, UTV and Channel 5 start in 2015.

While the early evening news slots will still be half an hour, 10 minutes will include non-local content, taken from elsewhere.

Sue Harris, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said:

"This would mean viewers in Yorkshire being shown daffodils from the West Country, rather than a full 30-minutes of home-grown news."

London, the North West and the Border region, which covers both sides of the England/Scotland border, will be exempted from the 10-minute cut.

Regional lunchtime news bulletins will be reduced from 6.5 minutes to 3 minutes and late evening bulletins from 10 minutes to five minutes. The two daily regional news bulletins at weekends will be cut from 10 minutes to five minutes.

The NUJ supported the move to revert to more localised news services prosed by ITV, and agreed by Ofcom, however, such services can only be provided at the appropriate quality if they are properly staffed and resourced.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"If 30 minutes of dedicated, local news is good enough for London, Manchester and the Border region, why isn't it good enough for the rest of the country?
"This matters because there has been a constant chipping away of ITV's public service broadcasting duty. When services were cut by ITV in 2009, that was under very different financial circumstances. Today, ITV is hugely profitable yet it is making further cuts to regional news, a key part of why the brand has been so successful."

According to Ofcom's Public Service Broadcasting Annual Report 2012, total spending on public service broadcasting (PSB) network programming across the five main channels and the BBC digital channels decreased by 8 per cent in real terms in 2011 to £2.8 billion. In the previous five years there had been a 20 per cent decrease in spending.

Sue Harris said:

"The changes to ITV local news are a major blow to public broadcasting. This has happened because Ofcom's role as a light-touch regulator has allowed ITV to have its way every time. This erosion is taking place at the same time as a massive decline in local newspapers, with titles closing and some towns being left without a local paper, plus a similar decline of local news services in Independent Local Radio.
"The maintenance of PSB obligations on broadcasters is critical to ensure that the public are properly informed, so that they can have access to, and properly engage with local, as well as national, democracy. It is also vital that there is a plurality of services, so that different voices and opinions are able to be heard."

Tags: , broadcasting, itv, public service broadcasting, cuts, OFCOM