Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Julian Simmons could disappear from our screens - check out some of his best links

All sound and no vision... is UTV's Julian Simmons disappearing from our screens?

By Allan Preston

The familiar sight of UTV favourite Julian Simmons introducing Coronation Street and providing Santa updates on Christmas Eve could soon be a thing of the past, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.

A source from ITV has said a decision has been taken that UTV's continuity announcers such as Simmons and Gillian Porter will "no longer be appearing on screen" and will instead pre-record links with only sound and no vision.

They said the changes were expected in October, meaning "the hugely popular Santa updates on Christmas Eve now won't happen".

The source added that rumours Simmons would be leaving UTV were untrue. "His contract is renewed but none of them are happy about these changes obviously," they said.

A spokesperson for UTV responded: "We've no news to share regarding continuity at this time."

Simmons on-screen links have been amusing Northern Ireland's soap opera fans for years.

After one preview for UTV's evening film 'Van Helsing' he quipped: "But now on UTV who needs Dracula and Frankenstein when you've got monster liar Cilla Battersby... stay with us for Coronation Street".

A Christmas eve announcement saw him report: "Turbulence in the North Pole was so bad that Santa has boked twice.

"However the reindeer have now pulled the sleigh to 75,000 feet and are flying south at a tremendous speed. It is now 100% definite that Ireland is Santa's first destination."

This week UTV faced questions over its news output with the announcement that the nightly UTV Live programme is to be replaced with a weekly politics show.

The changes follow the sale of UTV's television division to ITV in October for £100m. A new schedule will see late news and weather reduced to 11 minutes, with current affairs output increasing from 26 minutes per week to 33.

An insider who had previously worked on UTV Live said: "It's a shame that it's ending and it does raise a question about the commitment of UTV and its ITV parent to quality broadcast journalism."

A UTV spokesperson said that when UTV Live finishes in September, "it will be replaced with a new UTV Live news and weather bulletin after News at Ten every week night.

"A new, one-hour political series, View from Stormont, presented by Paul Clark, will be introduced on Monday nights in October, further enhancing our current affairs offering for viewers. In addition, UTV Life has returned in its usual slot, but will move to a new peak-time slot in September."

They said while UTV Live had performed well, "the time is now right to refresh the schedule and look forward to announcing more details on our new programming for viewers in September. No jobs are affected as a result of these plans."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph