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End of era at UTV as Julian Simmons and Gillian Porter exit

Veteran hosts fall victim to changes at station triggered by the pandemic

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Julian Simmons

Julian Simmons

Kevin Scott

Julian Simmons

They have been fixtures on our television screens for years, but now it is the end of an era as UTV favourites Julian Simmons and Gillian Porter leave the station.

Julian, best known for his quirky take on the goings-on of Coronation Street and Emmerdale, and former UTV Life presenter Gillian, said they planned to keep working and were excited to see what the future holds.

With more than 55 years of UTV experience between them, this will not be the last we see or hear of the pair.

Julian said he felt "very lucky" to have worked for the broadcaster for more than 30 years.

At the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, UTV made changes to its operations, including minimising staff numbers in the studio and remote working.

In April, local continuity announcements and branding between programmes were suspended to reduce risk and minimise the number of people in the Belfast office.

ITV said that the changes had worked well and, as a result, it decided to make the modifications permanent.

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Continuity announcements will continue to be provided centrally, meaning there is no longer a requirement for local continuity announcers.

As a result, Julian and Gillian will be leaving the broadcaster.

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Julian Simmons through the years

Julian Simmons through the years

Julian Simmons through the years

Julian joined the station in the mid-1980s on a freelance basis, having been encouraged to apply by a friend who saw him perform in an amateur drama group's play.

He became a permanent member of staff in 1992 and spent several years dividing his time between working for Air Canada at Heathrow and for UTV in Belfast, doing continuity and reading news and sport.

His programmes during the 1990s included Julian on the Road, which charted his learning to drive, and the travel programme Come Fly with Julian.

"In-vision continuity was a real stand-out element of UTV for decades. I love the part I played in that," he said.

"However, I accept that progress and technology means now it makes sense to have continuity centrally created for all of ITV nations and regions.

"I'm very lucky to have had a job at UTV for over 30 years in various guises.

"Whilst the curtain may be coming down on local continuity and my time at UTV, I intend to keep working and I'm excited to see what the future holds."

Gillian joined the station in 1993 as a continuity announcer, news reader and a weather presenter, having previously worked in a similar role at BBC Northern Ireland.

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Gillian Porter

Gillian Porter

Gillian Porter

She was the host of the first series of UTV Life in 1998 and, more recently, was the resident news reader on the late-night UTV Live Tonight, which ran until 2016.

Gillian continued with news, weather and in-vision continuity announcements until that year, when, along with Julian, she became an off-screen announcer.

"I've really enjoyed my time at UTV, especially the early years and the last four since UTV became part of ITV, when I felt truly valued and appreciated by my new managers," she said.

"I've met some wonderful people and always felt it was a real privilege to keep our viewers company throughout the day and night.

"It's been an honour to introduce and promote the many varied programmes which have aired on UTV down through the years, especially our fabulous local programmes, and to deliver the news in happy and also difficult times.

"I'm sad to be leaving UTV, but even though this door's closing, I'm looking forward to the next chapter."


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