Bectu has slammed ITV's plans to cut its regional news services from 17 flagship programmes to a nine-region structure, warning the move could cost hundreds of jobs. [ALL]

Bectu has slammed ITV's plans to cut its regional news services from 17 flagship programmes to a nine-region structure, warning the move could cost hundreds of jobs.

ITV's executive chairman Michael Grade today admitted that he was hopeful that ITV's public service requirements would be cut back following Ofcom's review into the issue, which began this week.

Grade said ITV was aiming to secure a new remit for the digital age and branded the current structure 'outdated'. He said that while he was committed to regional programming, the current investment of £120m a year was out of proportion to its commercial value and any public benefit.

He added that he was looking to make savings of between £35m and £40m a year. While 17 programmes are broadcast across 10 licence regions, four of them cover half of the viewers in England and Wales.

ITV will suggest to Ofcom, which would have to sanction such a move, that it provides nine programmes across the 10 regions.

A Bectu spokesperson said: 'Today's announcement is another kick in the shins for ITV's regional news staff who work long and hard to produce good quality output that regional audiences appreciate.'

The union estimated that spending on news will be cut from roughly £90m to between £50m and 60m.

It also demands that the ITV board make an immediate commitment to continuing to provide regional news after the digital switchover.

Without that commitment, the union believes, staff trust in ITV's management will be less that complete.

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