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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 17:32 GMT
Meridian to shed 175 jobs
Up to 175 jobs are to be lost at Meridian Television, the ITV franchise holder for the South East, it was announced on Thursday.

The company is planning to close its studio in Maidstone and broadcast local news for Kent and Sussex from Southampton - more than 100 miles from its current base.

The company has described the move as "a complete change of culture" and admitted approximately 175 jobs will go over the next 12 months.

Union representatives have said it means a local service will no longer be local.

I don't think what we plan will be easy
Meridian management statement

Meridian broadcasts three different regional news programmes, and the company has studios in Maidstone, Newbury and Brighton as well as its main base in Southampton.

Management said Meridian would be keeping a team of journalists and technical staff in Kent, with an office in the Maidstone area and a new base in Ashford.

Their reports would be fed to a studio in Fareham, near Portsmouth, from where the programme would be broadcast.

90-day consultation period

Staff have not been told whose jobs will go, but have been told the situation will be clearer in three months.

Staff held a press conference outside the Maidstone studio on Thursday to voice their anger.

They said had expected to be told on Thursday whose jobs were at risk, but said the situtation was still confused.

Reporter Sandy Flemming, who is a union representative, said: "We thought we would hear today whose job was at risk and they said 'no, this is the beginning'.

"Towards the end of the 90-day consultation period we'll have more idea of whose jobs are going to stay and who's got to go."

'A better future'

She told BBC Radio Kent she could not see how the programme for Kent and Sussex could be produced successfully form Hampshire.

A statement presented to Meridian staff from management said it was not possible to forecast the exact number of jobs which would be lost.

But it said: "We do anticipate an overall reduction in our workforce of approximately 175 people over the next 12 months."

The statement went on: "I appreciate that this is a lot for all of you to take in one go, but as I'm sure you will all appreciate, this is not merely a change of base or the introduction of new technology.

"It's a complete change of culture.

"I don't think what we plan will be easy, but I do believe that for some of you it will mean a better future with opportunities to develop your expertise in a modernised ITV."

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