“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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  • DC

    See you at Woodvale, Darwin!

  • jagmaster

    Well someone has to go to balance the books so that Alan Brazil and the other talkSPORT presenters can be paid.

  • son of sam

    Of course U T V has previous form in this regard.Many will remember the last bout of “blood letting” when Adrian Logan and others were shown the door.I still remain to be convinced that that the quality of sports output from the station has improved since.

  • D.A.

    The most cringe-worthy part of all now on UTV Live is the part where they have a reporter in the newsroom reading out reactions from Twitter, Facebook and the UTV website.

    Presumably just a way to fill a few minutes of airtime cheaply?

  • keano10

    UTV News has become a joke. It’s “populist” approach is laughable at times and it’s Sports Coverage has become amateurish and uninformative.

    I don’t really see the point of it’s 10.30pm programme anymore. Ther really is only so much of Paul Clark that one can watch in an average day. They have turned him into an all-consuming figurehead a la Ron Burgundy :). I’m sick of the sight of him to be honest. In former times at least they would have had a bit of variety a la Mike Nesbitt, Fearghal McKinney. These days we get Marc Mallet popping up biw and again but he’s from the same monotone school of delivery as Paul Clark (not as bad though, granted).

    UTV News has become staid and deeply boring. Whether this was Darwin Templeton’s fault or not, I do not know, but I somehow doubt it. They need a complete freshening up and I know where I would start…

  • Mick Fealty

    I’d ask where Keano, but only if you have a serious answer?

  • keano10

    Ok Mick.

    For what it’s worth :

    Firstly I would keep the star performers – The excellent Ken Reid, Jamie Delargy, Mark McFadden and Tracey Magee.

    I would then seriously look at getting a new co-presenter alongside Paul Clark. The likes of Gillian Porter etc… dont really cut the mustard. Marc Mallet can stay as relief announcer, but only because he’s safer in the studio than sending him out on the road for some of his haphazard reporting…

    There’s a lot of dead wood knocking around. Niall Donnelly, Jane Loughrey etc… It’s farewell for a few of them I’m afraid…

    I would stop short of knee-jerk reactions such as bringing back “Logey”. It took us long enough to get rid of him…

    Finally, they should then break the bank and offer Stephen Watson whatever he wants to “switch sides”. He would’nt be the first to take the money and cross the great media divide 🙂

    (Hope I have’nt sat on the fence here lol…)

  • Id have to agree with Keano10….theres a lot of blandness and an over-reliance on “its YOUR TV”…”let us know what you think…tweet tweet”.
    Paul Clark does seem like the senior citizen but he does know what hes talking about and the rest seem over-promoted.
    The bubbly requirement for the Presentation Department does not transfer well to News Department. One or two are out of their depth.
    But it seems that its just a case of UTV being infected first. BBC wil soon follow. They have lost Thompson, Rowan and Travers and Stephen Watson lacks the gravitas …he is at heart a sports reporter.
    Clearly there are stars on local TV Davenport, Purdy, Reid, Delargey….but there are no Barry Cowans and WD Flackes around.

  • DC

    I think i remember Jane Loughrey reporting on the Omagh bomb and she was visibly moved by it, if not in tears as she was reporting from the hospital describing the horror stories coming out.

    if it was her she seems a genuine enough person with a human side, not a lot like her in journalism and i am sure people and victims of whatever respect her and appreciate that she is genuine when she comes out to report on tragedies and sad stories. Modern day tv journalism and that line of work is accused of attracting people that are a bit psychopathic, machiavellian and narcissistic. a bit like politicians.

    UTV have some livelier females knocking about – judith hill and sarah moore come to mind – so it’s not all doom and gloom, there are people with a bit more zip there. marc mallet is dead on.

    after a bit of reflection, i hope UTV doesn’t go the way of BBCIRA after combing out a unionist-minded chap at the top.

  • son of sam

    The key aspect in all this as Alan points out is the”continued pressure for financial savings across the U T V media group”.In the past ,Chief Executive Michael Wilson has shown himself to be fairly ruthless in implementing the necessary cuts.Of course different people will have their own view as to where the dead wood lies within the local news and current affairs division.

  • Ulster Press Centre

    D.A.: The most cringe-worthy part of all now on UTV Live is the part where they have a reporter in the newsroom reading out reactions from Twitter, Facebook and the UTV website.

    Presumably just a way to fill a few minutes of airtime cheaply?

    I’d love to know who the staffer is at UTV responsible for moderating and approving comments on it’s website. There definitely seems to be a 5:1 themmuns:ussuns approval rate.

  • aquifer

    Why do I feel nine years old when watching UTV?

    OFCOM should have sacked them way back.

  • So who is the biggest moper nowadays?