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UTV bosses 'must tell MLAs if jobs at stake in takeover'

By Margaret Canning

Published 14/11/2015

Basil McCrea
Basil McCrea

Senior UTV personnel should be called before the Assembly's committee for culture, arts and leisure to discuss the TV division's takeover by ITV, it's been claimed.

NI21 MLA Basil McCrea also said he had spoken to UTV staff he claimed were concerned their jobs could be at risk after the takeover.

He said he has written to the committee to request that it calls senior personnel to answer the concerns of members.

And the MLA said he hoped that chief executive John McCann, chairman Richard Huntingford and managing director of TV, Michael Wilson, would attend.

"I have written to the committee to ask them to put it into the agenda," said McCrea.

"But I haven't spoken to UTV themselves. But as the committee with responsibility for public service broadcasting, (the department) is likely to get a positive response. I am hoping they will come in front of the committee before Christmas. I have spoken to UTV employees who have expressed concern about backroom staff and reporting staff."

UTV said it could not comment on any invitation before it arrives. But a spokeswoman added: "UTV will continue to produce regional programmes in line with Ofcom requirements for the Channel 3 licence in Northern Ireland, which includes 30 minutes' more local programming than the rest of the Channel 3 regions."

Meanwhile, UTV Media told the stock exchange it is to return up to £55m to shareholders after the sale of the television assets, which is expected to complete in the early part of next year.

In a circular sent to shareholders yesterday, the company said that it will hold a meeting on December 1 to enable them to vote on the proposed £100m deal.

Proposals give details of the deal and describe the relationship between UTV Limited - the new name for the TV division under ITV - and what will remain of UTV Media plc. The UTV name will belong to ITV - but the shareholders are told this could be a risk to the remaining interests.

"Following completion the continuing group will no longer be able to use the UTV brand and this may have a negative impact on the continuing group's ability to attract new business and retain existing customers."

And for 12 months, what remains of UTV Media plc will pay £37,500 to remain in its Havelock House headquarters, as well as for services such as IT and a telephone switchboard service. Another fee of £11,000 will cover provision of "high quality news information" to radio station U105.

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