Ofcom: Set ITV free

By politics.co.uk staff

ITV and Channel 5 could be ‘set free’ to pursue commercial programming without a public service remit, under an Ofcom report released today.

In September the regulator suggested ITV could drop some of its public service remit, with cuts to regional programming, including news.

That programme now looks set to expand, with ITV and Channel 5 being pointed in the direction of full-scale commercial broadcasting while the BBC and Channel 4 consolidate their reputation as public service broadcasters.

But the move to scrap regional news programmes, set to save ITV £40 million, has angered many local MPs.

“It is clear that people in the Borders don’t want their local news coming from Newcastle and are unhappy with the changes that have been pushed forward by ITV,” said Pete Wishart, SNP culture spokesman.

“Ofcom needed to come forward with a clear plan for the future of public service broadcasting – instead we have proposals that will complicate not clarify the vision of public service broadcasting in Scotland,” he added.

Michael Moore, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, echoed Mr Wishart’s criticisms of the plans that would entail 400 job cuts and a loss of public money for ITV and Channel 5.

“It raises the prospect of losing any kind of regional news altogether in a few years’ time,” he said.

Four hundred editorial staff will now join the Britain’s 1.6 million unemployed, “taking the links between ITV and local communities with them” said Jeremy Dear, secretary of the National Union of Journalists, which condemned Ofcom’s decision.

“That’s hardly in the interests of citizens and viewers,” he added.

Ofcom hasn’t ruled out merging Channels 4 and 5, a move many commentators find distinctly disturbing, with suspicions that Channel 4 would lose its teeth if it became subject to the influence of shareholders.

Another report on the media landscape, by Lord Carter, will be published on Monday.