UTV (U-Turn Violently?)

18 10 2008

With all this talk of job losses, the UTV press office has gone on silent running for a bit. It was only a few short weeks ago that it happily reported a feast of balls under the headling ‘Feast of Programming for Autumn’.

Managing Director of UTV Michael Wilson took on speculation and restated UTV’s commitment to local broadcasting [erm… just weeks before the corporation U-turned violently and placed three flagship local programmes and 28 production jobs under threat].

According to Michael Wilson back in August:

Local programmes are at the very heart of UTV’s schedule. There has been much talk and speculation about ITV handing back its Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) licence and the impact this might have on UTV (my irony-filled smug itals).

UTV is by far the leading PSB channel in Northern Ireland and I would like to assure viewers that UTV is fully committed to public service broadcasting.

Our audience share speaks for itself – even in these hugely competitive times with more than 250 channels, we have an incredible 30% peaktime audience share – well ahead of the ITV Network at 24%, 30% higher than BBC NI and almost four times the audience of Channel 4, our nearest commercial rival.

And this Autumn viewers can look forward to a feast of fine local programming backed up by the best of the ITV network guaranteed to while away those cold dark evenings.

Those evenings are going to get colder and darker for the TV production staff who received this memo from Michael last week:

As part of our ongoing review of UTV programming following Ofcom’s announcement, we wrote to all UTV Television staff offering them a voluntary severance programme and are meeting staff tomorrow to outline our proposed plans.

This is aimed at taking into account UTV’s anticipated staffing as we restructure our business and programme requirements for 2009.

In recent months all major broadcasters have announced job losses. UTV has been successful in outperforming the market in terms of both advertising and audience.

However we now must make difficult decisions to ensure we remain able to deliver quality public service programming in a challenging economic environment.

We are very proud of our local programming and our commitment to a sustainable level of high quality production for Northern Ireland remains as strong as ever.

No detail on the nature of this ‘voluntary’ programme. Fortunately Michael was able to offer more information in an email to staff.

Once this scheme has closed, should the company seek further staff reductions on a compulsory redundancy basis, the compensation package available to staff will be significantly reduced.

Oh. A spoonful of sugar helps the hemlock go down, as Mary Poppins’s evil twin might have said.

So to recap – those under threat of the axe are:

  • Tina Campbell
  • Frank Mitchell
  • Pamela Ballantine
  • Jeannie Johnston
  • Adrian Logan
  • Paul Clarke
  • Editor of news gathering, executive producer of news output, features editor, sports editor and executive producer of current affairs are also under threat.

And those safe are:

  • Jamie Delargy
  • Ken Reid.

The redundancy scheme is open until November 14. After that we’ll see who survived Round 1.

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