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UTV could lose 30% of staff as ITV cuts costs

Support and tech jobs are under threat in shake-up

By Margaret Canning

Published 06/10/2016

Havelock House, UTV's headquarters in Belfast
Havelock House, UTV's headquarters in Belfast

More than 40 jobs are on the line at Northern Ireland broadcaster UTV as new owner ITV makes big changes to the station, it has emerged.

A spokesman for ITV said 43 jobs were at risk — around 30% of the company’s workforce — though newsroom staff are not affected.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that almost half of its sales team — six out of 11 people — are at risk of redundancy, along with two out of three library staff.  Another 16 at-risk posts are in the technical field of ‘play-out’. But a spokeswoman said there were opportunities for eight people to be redeployed in sales, production and news traineeships, meaning 35 jobs will definitely go.

The posts are going because ITV is able to centralise roles supporting the making of programmes in London.

And the sale by ITV of UTV Ireland to Virgin Media is also a factor behind the job cuts, as Virgin Media already owns TV3 in the Republic, and roles would otherwise be duplicated.

A spokeswoman for UTV in Belfast said: “We have updated staff on the latest integration and restructuring plans, as well as the proposed sale of UTV Ireland to Virgin Media, which regrettably means that a number of roles are at risk of redundancy.”

One UTV insider said: “This was inevitable and was widely expected by staff when the company was sold to ITV.

“There have been other job losses and cutbacks since they took over, but the scale of these redundancies is shocking.

“Many of the staff affected have worked at UTV for a long time and some are highly technical roles.”

And the insider said there was pessimism about the future. “The newsroom is surely next for a round of cuts. ITV newsrooms all over Great Britain operate on a very tight margin, with as few staff as possible.

“Journalists are expected to be multi-skilled so that they can film and edit their own reports, even read the news as well. UTV’s newsroom is very old-fashioned in that regard and ITV is unlikely to allow it to remain this way.”

The cuts by ITV have also cast doubt on the future of UTV’s tradition of on-screen continuity announcers.

The rest of the ITV network relies on continuity voiceovers, unlike UTV’s use of talent like Julian Simmons and Gillian Porter.

Last week marked the final UTV Live Tonight after ITV’s axe fell on the four-times weekly current affairs show.

It’s to be replaced by a weekly politics show View from Stormont, also presented by Paul Clark.

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