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UTV prepares to say goodbye to Havelock House on Belfast's Ormeau Road

By Margaret Canning

Published 15/10/2016

The familiar sign ...
The familiar sign ...
Workmen in action ...

UTV is set to move out of its historic Havelock House home, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Staff were told by their new bosses from ITV yesterday that they will vacate the distinctive building on Belfast's Ormeau Road by mid-2018, closing the door on almost 60 years.

As the announcement was made, the familiar yellow and blue UTV logo was being removed from outside the building, to be replaced by light-blue signage in the ITV corporate style.

Icons of Northern Ireland broadcasting, from Gloria Hunniford to Eamonn Holmes, began their careers at Havelock House, while others, such as Pamela Ballentine and Frank Mitchell, continue to enjoy long careers there.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that newsroom staff were also told at yesterday's briefing that they would be expected to start 'multi-skilling' in future, with reporters increasingly filming and editing their own work.

And they were informed that ITV is negotiating a letting for its future home, in a 'purpose-built' premises. It's expected this will be in Belfast, with some suggesting it could be in City Quays 2, a new office development in Harbour Estate.

Yesterday's briefing was given to newsroom staff, from onscreen reporters and presenters to producers. But last week, back-office staff in roles such as sales were given the bad news that 43 jobs out of UTV's total workforce of 134 will go.

According to one insider, the mood at yesterday's meeting was "upbeat".

Employees have also been promised investment, and that commitment to news and current affairs - including specials - would also be maintained.

The insider added: "We were told that there would be a purpose-built new office with negotiations ongoing for a site."

But he added: "However, the atmosphere in the rest of the building in departments where jobs are being lost is terrible." A UTV spokeswoman said staff had been told they would be moving to a new "state of the art" home. "That will be in 2018, following a full technical build, once suitable centrally located premises are agreed to ensure the new HD studios are the most modern in Europe and fit for future broadcast requirements. This investment underpins ITV's commitment to UTV's regional news service.

"In addition, ITV is currently investing in a complete revamp of UTV's Stormont facilities to support its new weekly politics programme View from Stormont which starts on Monday at 10.40pm."

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