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14/12/2004

ITV jumps gun with job cuts in Wales, says Bectu

Bectu negotiators have accused ITV of pre-empting Ofcom decisions with a plan to cut jobs in Wales.
ITV has announced proposals for 15 redundancies in a number of areas, including transmission, admin, Teletext and community service announcements. This follows on from redundancies earlier this year in subtitling, web design, and payroll.
Particularly alarming to Bectu is the timing of the proposals, which come well before the publication of Ofcom's Phase 3 Review of Public Service Broadcasting.
The union has expressed grave concerns that ITV Wales are pre-empting the conclusion of the Ofcom review, particularly regarding the amount of regional programming they will be expected to produce. Unlike the English Regions, where a 50% cut in non-news regional programmes has been proposed by Ofcom, no figure has yet been put forward for Wales. There has been considerable opposition to any reduction in ITV Wales' output from Welsh politicians of all parties, including Secretary of State Peter Hain.
There are serious concerns within ITV Wales that the redundancies, particularly those within transmission, will seriously affect the channel's ability to produce and broadcast the current level of non-news regional programmes and features.
Bectu has suggested that if Ofcom should recommend that the status quo of 10 hours-a-week of regional programming in Wales remains, ITV will not be in position to maintain it.
In a letter to new ITV Wales MD Roger Lewis, the Union has requested that all the proposed redundancies should be suspended pending the publication of Ofcom's review of PSB regarding Wales. Bectu is also seriously concerned that in the midst of a detailed and contentious review of public service broadcasting, ITV Wales should seek to cease both regional teletext and community service announcements (which promotes local charities).
There are also rumours within ITV Wales that they will cease production of the regional Crimestoppers programme in the New Year - a programme that the union believes is a classic example of public service broadcasting.
Nigel Mason, a Bectu national officer, said: "We have serious concerns that ITV Wales are jumping the gun in terms of the Ofcom review. There is a cynical view circulating that these cuts will ensure that even if Ofcom bow to the considerable pressure from Wales, particularly from the Assembly and MP's, to maintain a decent level of local Welsh programmes, ITV Wales will be unable to produce them anyway. We are calling on ITV to suspend these redundancies pending the conclusion of the Ofcom review."
(GB)
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