Belfast Telegraph

UTV 'likely to be spared' in parent company ITV's £40m cost-cutting drive

Paul Clark and Rose Neill broadcast from UTV’s new City Quays base
Paul Clark and Rose Neill broadcast from UTV’s new City Quays base

By Margaret Canning and PA

UTV is likely to be spared in a £40m cost-cutting drive planned by its parent company, a commentator has said.

ITV, which bought UTV's television assets in 2016 in a £100m deal, has launched a group-wide move to save up to £40m by 2021 as it battles weak advertising revenue growth amid an "uncertain market environment".

But Don Anderson, a commentator and author of 50 Years of UTV in 2008, said it was unlikely that the Belfast operation would be targeted for cuts.

And the 59-year-old broadcaster's move from its birthplace at Havelock House to modern offices in Belfast Harbour's City Quays - which was completed this month - had already marked its biggest cost reduction.

"UTV has just moved from its substantial historic home on the Ormeau Road to a single floor in an office block in Belfast's rejuvenated docklands," Mr Anderson said.

"That in itself is a major downsizing already done.

"UTV once employed several hundred, now it is about 100.

"It used to be one of two significant companies outside the ITV umbrella.

"Now it is a tiny part of a very big broadcaster, approximately 1% of it. If you take the projected cuts at averaging just over £13m per year, and UTV's share of that being a mere 1%, then there's probably no cliff fall in prospect for the UTV workforce."

Following the purchase of UTV, STV in Scotland is now the only independent Channel 3 broadcaster in the UK.

ITV's recently-hired chief executive Carolyn McCall unveiled what she called a strategy "refresh", which the broadcaster said will address sector competition and ensure it remains "a structurally sound business".

The move will involve a £60m investment in the firm over the next three years that will in part help ramp up its UK and global production, and create a "direct to consumer business".

The broadcaster also outlined a raft of cost cuts, with plans to target £35m to £40m in savings between 2019 and 2021, with £15m of those cutbacks set to take place next year alone.

Asked if Northern Ireland might be affected, a spokeswoman for ITV said "it is too early for specifics".

She added: "Carolyn (McCall) outlined today that there will be a reorganisation to reflect the strategy refresh. Savings will be across the next three years."

Ms McCall told journalists it was "too early" to say whether job losses would be necessary as part of the cost-cutting, but that staff numbers were likely to grow on a net basis.

"We need to bring in more capabilities and therefore the net impact over three years is positive in terms of people, rather than negative, but it is a realignment around things we absolutely have to deliver to be a structurally sound and successful business in the next three to five years," she said.

Belfast Telegraph