“the prospect of the long-standing role of head of news being discarded has surprised staff at [UTV] …”

UTV is in the news today. The Belfast Telegraph’s Margaret Canning reports that “the long-standing role of head of news [has been] discarded” resulting in Darwin Templeton being made compulsory redundant.

darwin templetonPreviously editor of The News Letter and former editor of UTV’s Insight current affairs strand, Darwin took up his role in UTV’s newsroom in early 2012.

UTV News is popular with viewers, consistently achieving a higher share of teatime audiences for its 6pm bulletin than its rival BBC Newsline at 6.30pm. [The time difference plays some part in the viewing figures but is unlikely to explain the entire gap.] It also massively outperforms the regional news offerings from ITV franchises in England.

Darwin’s exit may be a result of the continued pressures for financial savings across the UTV media group, and perhaps the necessity to retain a stable of reporters at the expense of more senior editors and managers.

Ofcom today announced the terms of the new ten-year channel 3 licences which start on 1 January 2015. Locally, the headlines are:

Ofcom channel 3 obligations UTV NI

  • UTV will continue to be required to provide a weekly average of four hours of regional news, of which two and a half hours will continue to be in peak.
  • Ofcom rejected UTV’s proposal to reduce the amount of regional non-news programming from two hours a week to ninety minutes (which would have matched the other channel 3 licences around the UK). UTV currently exceeds its quota for non-news programming, which includes shows like The Magazine and Lesser Spotted Ulster.
  • Ofcom was not convinced by UTV’s assurance that it had no plans to reduce actual non-news content down to the requested ninety minute minimum. Ofcom explained in their consultation report that “such assurances are not binding” and “the current obligations are not unduly onerous”. In their Statement of Programming Obligations:

Ofcom also notes the representations from respondents against reductions in non-news obligations, and audience data supplied by UTV that indicates that regional programming is more popular in Northern Ireland than in many other parts of the UK. Against this background, and in the absence of compelling arguments for reductions in the current level of programming, Ofcom has decided to maintain the current level of obligations.

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