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Jobs uncertainty as ITV given green light to reduce regional news output

ITV’s Northern-based jobs could be under threat after sweeping changes were today announced to the broadcaster’s regional news output.

Media regulator Ofcom has released details of the terms that will apply to new 10-year public service broadcasting licences for Channel 3 and Channel 5.

The terms, which will take effect when the current licence expires at the end of 2014, clear the path for ITV to scale back some of its regional bulletins in favour of more localised content.

The broadcaster had put forward its proposals in a consultation document in February, which it argued would offer a “better, more sustainable service” for viewers.

Under the terms announced today, the number of ITV regions in England will increase from eight to 14, with the Border region split to give more localised news for viewers in the north of England.

Ofcom has also reduced the required length of early evening regional news bulletins from 30 to 20 minutes, although Granada is one of only two regions who will be allowed to retain half-hour early evening programmes.

All regions will however be allowed to scale back non-peak lunchtime, late evening and weekend regional news bulletins.

Lunchtime bulletins will be reduced from 6.5 to 3 minutes, and late evening bulletins from 10 to 5 minutes.  The two daily regional news bulletins at weekends will also be reduced from 10 to 5 minutes.

No-one from ITV was available to comment on the impact of the changes, but the reduced output requirement is likely to have some effect in terms of resource levels.

Ofcom said the changes “strike an appropriate balance between a sustainable service and one that meets the needs of citizens for a more local and thus more relevant regional news service”.

An ITV spokeswoman said in a statement: “We welcome Ofcom’s support for our regional news proposals, which will keep strong, sustainable local programming at the heart of our schedule for at least the next decade. Today’s announcement also marks another important step towards the renewal of our licence for a full 10 years following the decision by the secretary of state last November.”

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