Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

UTV Life may face axe

Staff at UTV are being offered voluntary severance as the company faces “significant” job cuts, it was revealed today.

In a memo obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, management stated that the voluntary severance package was available to staff within the television division and other staff based at UTV’s headquarters on the Ormeau Road in Belfast.

Both the Internet department and radio station U105 are exempt from the scheme.

Staff were also warned that once the scheme had closed, there was the possibility of compulsory redundancies, when the compensation package would be “significantly reduced”.

In the memo, Michael Wilson, managing director of UTV, said: “Whilst we are still working on our proposals it is already apparent that we are looking for a significant reduction in headcount across all departments.”

The news of the voluntary redundancy scheme follows recent proposals by Ofcom with regard to a reduction in local programming hours.

Mr Wilson said that while UTV was considering its response to the proposals, it had decided to reopen the VS scheme to staff. The scheme was offered earlier in the year to employees, but the new package sees the addition of a severence payment being available to staff with one to two year’s service.

Mr Wilson continued: “However, once this scheme has closed, should the company seek further staff reductions on a compulsory redundancy basis, the compensation package available to staff will be significantly reduced.”

It is understood that journalists and presenters will be hit by the proposed cuts, with rumours circulating that popular show UTV Life, featuring Frank Mitchell and Pamela Ballantine, could be axed.

Ofcom proposed that UTV’s news coverage be reduced by one hour, 20 minutes, from five hours, 20 minutes to four hours per week, while the quota for “non-news” programmes will drop from the proposed three hours to 1.5 hours in 2009.”

The deadline for UTV staff to apply for voluntary redundancy is 5pm on Friday, October 31.

Mr Wilson said that it was hoped the company would be in a position to brief staff in the coming weeks on UTV’s response to Ofcom’s proposals for programming for 2009 onwards.

A UTV source said: “With the radio station U105 and the new Media department excluded from the cuts, the phrase ‘UTV’ is something of a misnomer.”

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