To highlight the plight of UTV staff when so many face redundancy elsewhere may seem like special pleading but it isnt. The united joint statement from the Assembly leadership seems like a last ditch appeal against already authorised cuts.
The regulator (Ofcom) believes UTV should be permitted to cut news output from five hours weekly to four and non-news programming from four hours to just 90 minutes.
On the face of it, this sounds like UTV opting out of all but top-line news coverage and its proud history of half a century of reflecting the wider, especially the popular culture which it often carried out with considerably more panache than the more lumbering BBC.
It is always possible, although a real loss, to make fewer video reports, to get out and about less, even at a pinch, to do away with studio altogether. But jobs apart, it is now urgently incumbent on the UTV management to say what they mean by the following:
“No one is more committed to high quality regional production for Northern Ireland than UTV.”
The prospect of leaving NI with a virtual local BBC monopoly takes us back to the mid fifties, a disaster in the digital age. And no, FaceBook and YouTube and certainly RTE’s northern-focused output don’t cut it, as a complement to UTV’s deplorable reduction to the scale of a local news station in the US boondocks.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London