Regional news could be outsourced, says ITV boss

ITV’s executive chairman Michael Grade suggested today that the broadcaster could hand over responsibility for regional news to another organisation.

British communications regulator Ofcom suggested last month that ITV’s regional programmes, which are produced as part of its public service broadcasting (PSB) requirement, could be cut to help it save £40m (€51m) a year.

A week later ITV announced it was planning to axe more than 400 jobs across its regional services.

Mr Grade today highlighted a longer-term option of regional news being provided by an outside news organisation, paid for from the public purse and broadcast by ITV.

He said: “This would give it continuity of reach on Channel 3, continuing to maximise the potential audience.”

He later added that the issue was not who the provider was but how it was paid for, saying: “You could get PA (the Press Association) to do it, you could get Reuters to do it, you could get Sky to do it.”

Mr Grade was speaking on the impact of the PSB suggestions made by Ofcom to the Royal Television Society (RTS) in London.

In his speech, Mr Grade said: “In our submissions to Ofcom, we have said that we would prefer to remain a licensed PSB, if justified economically.

“However, on face value, either route – PSB licensed or fully commercial – is capable of providing a viable basis from which ITV could continue to follow its content-led strategy, and deliver value for its viewers, advertisers and shareholders.”

He said: “It’s time for ITV to be left alone to operate as a business ... In future ITV must be treated as a business operating in a highly competitive market, and not as an arm of social and industrial policy.

“Any new PSB settlement must be founded on a new deal – and I repeat – one that sets a clear balance between costs and benefits.”

Mr Grade also described the non-PSB option as “very attractive”.

He said: “We would be masters of our own destiny ... It has certain risks, but they are risks we could live with. That is not a threat, under any circumstances whatsoever.”

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