Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Questions in the House

Events yesterday conspired to see the irrepressible Austin Mitchell leap out of the hat in the lottery to ask questions of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport James Purnell. Other MPs got stuck in too - read the full report here. Purnell, one of the prime architects of Ofcom, confirmed that 'This House made it very clear through the Communications Act 2003 that it expected regional television to be right at the heart of what ITV does... '
ITV and Ofcom should heed the advice given by Mr Purnell to 'take into account the strong feelings expressed about (the plans) in this House.'

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Meet the Minister

No photos allowed at Portcullis house in Westminster so you'll have to trust we were there this afternoon. The NUJ's parliamentary group had arranged a meeting with interested MPs and the secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport James Purnell. We met and put the case for ITV local and regional news - including our ideas around future funding mechanisms. The minister agreed that nothing which comes out of the Ofcom reviews in the next year will pre-empt the bigger picture on the future of public service broadcasting. He also gave us the heartfelt assurance that he's a strong supporter of PSB and that he believes its of central cultural importance to Britain. We told him that once it's gone it's gone and turning the clock back will be very tough.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Deloitte report

A good day to bury bad news for ITV with the publication of the long-awaited Deloitte report. Serious editorial issues with premium-rate phone and interactive services have been highlighted and viewers are out of pocket to the tune of almost 8 million pounds. More than 60 ITV series were reviewed with several high profile shows including Ant and Dec's Gameshow Marathon in 2005 targeted for criticism. ITV says no one will lost their job as a result of the findings - which should be welcomed. It remains to be seen whether Ofcom wants to take the things further with additional fines, once it's read the report...

Monday, 15 October 2007

No to Plan A

Reps from across the ITV news regions turned out in force for a meeting with the news group management this morning. Extra chairs had to be rustled up at short notice. Reps put their opposition to the plans on a number of fronts - including recording news opts, and how local sports coverage would be affected. We asked for a wider meeting with ITV plc to put forward alternative plans on the future funding of regional news. Read them here. We hope the company will engage with us on a plan B...

Political blogs against ITV cuts

Iain Dale, the most widely read of the political bloggers, has highlighted the growing support amongst MPs against the cuts opening with:-
"It seems to be completely mad that ITV wish to cut their regions from 12 to 9."

More details at his website : http://iaindale.blogspot.com/

Friday, 12 October 2007

EDM encore

EDMs are tumbling around thick and fast now that MPs are back to work. A national one launched yesterday can be seen here. 45 signatures so far - you might like to ask your MP to sign. There is also a Border motion listed here. One for Meridian is already up and running (see blog entry below). I'm sure EDM's for other regions can't be far behind.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

MPs in the South against ITV plans

The following has been tabled in parliament:-

Norman Baker
Mr Michael Moore
Paul Clark
Michael Jabez Foster
Miss Ann Widdecombe
Peter Bottomley
* 12
Sandra Gidley David Lepper Tim Loughton
Bob Russell Dr Evan Harris Mark Durkan
That this House notes with grave concern the plans put forward by ITV to reduce its number of regional newsrooms from 17 to 9; further notes with particular concern its proposal to merge the three current Meridian regional news programmes; believes this would lead to the loss of a dedicated service for Sussex and Kent and radically reduce the provision of local information to viewers in the South East; further believes that such a merger would equate to a neglect of public service broadcasting commitments by ITV and would presage the end of local output on the channel; and calls upon the Government to press Ofcom to refuse its approval for the merger.

Anglia visit

Raining cats and dogs in Norwich during my trip to Anglia TV to see how the campaign is going here. The team is doing good stuff - a venue is booked out for the Nov 5th day of action and local MPs are expected. The chapel have got shareholders in their sights over ITV's plans - namely themselves... Most have always politely declined their invitation to the annual shareholders meeting. Perhaps not next time...

Monday, 8 October 2007

The week ahead

The start of a busy week in the campaign to Save ITV News. No election which means MPs getting back down to the work of supporting their constituents and defending local journalism. Trips to Anglia and Yorkshire are on the horizon to hear how things are going in the campaign there. Meanwhile a delegation of MPs from Border is heading to London next week to meet Michael Grade and let him know their views on the disappearance of Lookaround. And there's the possibility of local newspaper campaign to save the programme. Surely papers in other areas will want to leap on this bandwagon...

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Yesterday's news tomorrow

As more details of the plans filter out the madder they seem to be. Those regions which will disappear into 'opts' are now discovering that the idea seems to be to pre-record these. Presumably they will be asking police to ensure that no-one is charged between five and six pm if we're reporting major cases, and of course juries will stop that endearing habit of bringing verdicts back at 4.30pm.
Have the lunatics taken over the asylum? Certainly seems that way.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007


Ofcom is receiving criticism for its handling of the funding issues around children's television. Many are claiming that they got it wrong in reacting to concerns over childhood obesity by a case of old style intervention. Without dealing with whether this action was right for the nations crisp and chocolate addicts, it is odd that on one of the few occasions where the regulator has taken a firm hand, it has had a significant negative economic impact on the independent broadcasters they are under a duty to promote. Now they are discussing the NUJ idea (floated three years ago) of a PSB levy, providing cash for original programming. It needs to agree with us though that the most appropriate way to deal with these issues is to allow digital spectrum to be the key to unlock the funding issues around public service broadcasting.

On the road

Criss-crossing the country I'm impressed with the level of commitment and enthusiasm displayed by ITV chapels. The campaign is most definitely on, with members vying to come up with the wackiest ways of promoting their cause - pasties anyone? Heading to Bristol tonight to hear how things are going at ITV West. With the scent of an election in the air now is the time to be lobbying hard and rallying MPs to the cause.