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Unions question government on regional news consortia

17 November 2009

The NUJ and BECTU have written to the UK government to demand more details about how proposed pilots of local news consortia will work.

An official report published on Monday announced basic information about how the government intends to secure the future of local news on commercial broadcasters.

The unions are warning that the detail must be in place to ensure that viewers don't lose out. The  unions have been pushing the government for answers to its questions, but, so far, responses have not been forthcoming.

The idea of setting up independently funded news consortia is to be piloted in Scotland, Wales and one English region. The consortia are set to supply local news across multiple platforms, including the relevant programmes on ITV and STV.

The unions have been pushing the government to act to secure the future of local news on ITV and the other Channel 3 providers. However, they have expressed concern that no real detail has been made available about the plans, making the situation uncertain for many staff.

In a letter to culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, the general secretaries of the two unions demand reassurances that the implications of the plans have been properly considered.

Sue Harris, NUJ broadcasting organiser, said:

"We welcome the fact that the government has committed itself to take action to secure the future of quality local news on ITV, STV and beyond. However, we've got real concerns that nobody is able to put any details on those plans. What will happen to existing staff in the affected parts of ITV and STV?
"Given that nothing like this has been tried before, the government must be prepared for the possibility of problems, or even failure, in the pilots. If that happens, how can we be sure that viewers of ITV and STV will still be provided with a quality news service?"

Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, added:

"We've been asking government, Ofcom, anyone who'll listen, to tell us what will happen if these pilots don't work. They promise to get back to us, but so far we've not had a response.
"We welcome action to save local TV news so the question now is how will government ensure these pilots guarantee the quality local programmes that viewers want. Officials hope to award contracts in just a few months time, so surely these issues will have been considered?"

Tags: , television, funding, broadcasting, news consortia, stv, itv, bectu, local news, government uk