UTV part of plan to cut local news

It’s bitterly ironic that at a time when whole new political environments have been created by devolution, that ITV, once the UK’s premier channel and a nationally federated system, is being allowed to slash its regional news output. Local news programming is being sacrificed in a bid to halt the slow death of ITV as we know it. New decisions by the regulator Ofcom allows the company to cut information and other “public service” programmes in a bid to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive media world. Ulster Television although not part of the ITV company is also affected.

“ITV would be allowed a “modest reduction” of regional news minutage, by dropping some daytime news bulletins, and slashing regional non-news programming by 50% to 15 minutes per week in England and 1.5 hours in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

On UTV, weasel words from Ofcom, quoted in the Tele: “in response to audiences’ clear preferences Ofcom is particularly concerned to prioritise news.” Yet – “It has been proposed that UTV’s minimum hours of local news is to be reduced from five hours 20 minutes to four hours per week, while the weekly quota for ‘non-news’ will drop from three hours to one and a half hours in 2009.”
In Scotland, the Herald reports that “Vicki Nash, director of Ofcom in Scotland, said the current model of funding was “unsustainable”. “Extra funding from the Scottish Government will be needed,” she said. Sources suggest this funding could be as high as £10m” Accepting funding direct from government in Scotland’s highly politicised environment would be a very risky move.

Although the main ITV Wales news programme will be protected, a 20% cut in news output from 5 hours 20 minutes per week to 4 hours will see mid-morning and weekend bulletins axed. At least Wales also has its own dedicated bilingual channel, S4C .

With swingeing cuts hitting Channel 4 the onus for providing public service broadcasting including regional news falls ever more heavily on the BBC. Even so, with the effects of the credit crunch added, it’s becoming ever harder for the Corporation to resist top slicing the licence fee income to subsidise other broadcasters after digital switchover is phased in between next year and 2012. Whatever the range and proliferation of output platforms from phones to HDTV, the challenge will be give the lie to the Kingsley Amis’s bitter old maxim “more means worse.”

In the medium term, the best option for UTV, although very complex to set up, would be to seek a partnership with a broadcaster in the Republic, probably in a federation with TV3 or RTE, guaranteeing each editorial independence.

  • 9 County Ulster is my homeland

    RTÉ covers news across the whole country, even the occupied 6 north-eastern counties. So with all 32 counties being covered there shouldn’t be a need to look across to Britain.

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    Oh dear, Julian and “what about ye” as he says, as he introduces “The Street” etc…and Emerdale. What shite moronic programmes really with repetitive story lines. Any Unionist folf agree? Me poor auld mudder (mother) living in EIRE always loved “the Street” over the years, but after 20 or 30 odd years she realized that with the repetitive story lines etc.. that it wasn’t really that good after all, but exploiting the viewer!

    Are general British folk so dum?

    ‘Eastenders’ is the same – perhaps the biggest embarassment at the mo of the BBC, however the TV license fee is well worth it over ll really and what a great TV station that is regarding other programmes it has produced, But I mean, truly, I’m not being sarcastic, but ITV aka UTV, (aka TV3) is a car crash! Childers TV gone and now they are reducing regional programmes – so there goes ‘Mr Mahon’ and ‘Lesser Spotted Ulster’!
    BTW, do Ulster folk (Prod and Papist) really love continually watching English based programmes?

    The Anglocentric aspect to the forefront again!

    (……….and sheep may graze!)

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Do people still watch ITV? I didn’t realise there was a point!

    I get my news from the internet; comment, opinion and news from newspapers, radio and web.

    Drama comes from DVD box sets, downloading and BT Vision box. Getting a whole season at one time is such a godsend.

    Documentaries and history from BT Vision box, or iPlayer or Channel 4’s On Demand.

    Movies come via any of the above.

    The only reason to watch ITV is for it’s interactive reality shows, which are fortunately easily avoidable.

    ITV is rubbish, and no wonder UTV has been diversifying.

  • Danny O’Connor

    RTE is not available where I live,unless you get sky, and even then some of the programmes are encrypted.I regulary watch UTV and this reduction in programming is a disgrace,many homes do not have sky,which means that the loss of local programmes-aside from the job losses- will mean even more brain dead tv,either soaps or repeats.

  • Dewi

    “own dedicated bilingual channel, S4C”

    Correction – not a bilingual channel.

  • Reader

    9 County: RTÉ covers news across the whole country, even the occupied 6 north-eastern counties. So with all 32 counties being covered there shouldn’t be a need to look across to Britain.
    It’s not obvious that a 32 county station will give better coverage of 6 counties than a 6 county station will. What has RTÉ done on Bangor recently?

  • Comrade Stalin

    UTV has been in slow decline for a long time. What happened to the fairly decent local documentary shows such as Insight and Counterpoint, are they still on ?

  • Brian Walker

    Dewi, You correct me first quoting me:
    “own dedicated bilingual channel, S4C”
    and adding –
    “Correction – not a bilingual channel”.

    I don’t want to quibble and you know a lot more about this than I do. Perhaps “bilingual” isn’t quite the right word, but S4C broadcasts in both languages, mainly in Welsh.

    From S4C’s annual report 2007:
    “On analogue S4C’s public service remit is the provision of a broad range of high quality and
    diverse programming, in a service in which a substantial proportion of the programmes consist of programmes in Welsh, and the programmes broadcast for viewing between 18.00 and 22.00 every day of the week consist mainly of programmes in Welsh, and, the programmes that are not in Welsh are normally programmes which are being, have been, or are to be broadcast on Channel 4.(This will continue until the analogue service is switched off in 2009/2010.)”

  • nineteensixtyseven

    UTV is useless anyway. All that blue and yellow is amateur looking.

  • Dewi

    “own dedicated bilingual channel, S4C”
    and adding –
    “Correction – not a bilingual channel”. ”

    It is probably semantics and the word I should probably have queried was “dedicated” – the English language bits are not dedicated.

  • RepublicanStones

    I hope this doesn’t mean less Lynda Brians gracing our screens, cause she is mint !

    Have to admit to a sneaky little thing for Pamela Ballentine as well, im sure some will agree !

  • At least it might mean an end to UTV’s Late and Live bollocks. Every grey cloud and all that………..

  • Taff

    There ought to be a national television channel covering the whole of Ireland.

    In order to meet this aspiration it is imperative that RTE has the potential to effectively transmit its programmes across the six counties, and significntly reflect the local culture.