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Thursday, 22 November, 2001, 17:51 GMT
Challenge ahead for ITN
ITN
Cuts will affect management and production staff
Torin Douglas

There was rejoicing at ITN six weeks ago when it regained the ITV News contract, which underpins its business.

Now the price has become clear - a loss of up to 133 jobs, among staff and management.

And with ITV apparently wanting more leisure, consumer and entertainment news - "more Geri Halliwell than Gerry Adams", as one report put it - there are fears among staff that ITN's reputation for serious foreign and political coverage will be damaged.


They say only 10 journalists will lose their jobs at ITV News out of an ITV newsroom of 130

The staff cuts were inevitable once ITN faced up to the challenge of a rival bid for the ITV contract.

A consortium backed by Sky and CBS News had promised to undercut it by more than 10m, forcing ITN to reduce its own price dramatically.

The recession in television advertising - which has hit ITV hard - has not helped.

Yet ITN strongly denies quality will suffer.

Production costs

Indeed, it sees the new contract as the catalyst for a new - and much more efficient - way of working, through the use of new digital technology, which allows journalists to work directly with news footage at their desks.

The system has been pioneered at its 24-hour operation, the ITN News Channel.

Senior ITN executives say the move to a fully digital operation will help it maintain quality while reducing production costs.

Concerns

They say only 10 journalists will lose their jobs at ITV News out of an ITV newsroom of 130.

But they concede that "high-quality staff" will be leaving the company and say they will take a proactive role in trying to find jobs for them.

Staff have some concern about the new production processes, questioning whether the new digital technology really can do all that is claimed of it.

But their other worry is over the style of the news wanted by ITV - there is a widespread feeling that showbiz and consumer news are in, while politics and foreign news are out.

'Committed'

If that came to pass, the BBC would have less competition for serious news - it has always seen ITN as its main competitor, though Sky News has become a significant third force in UK TV news in recent years.

But ITV denies that is its intention.

Steve Anderson, its controller of news and current affairs, says the seven year contract with ITN gives it great security and it is fully committed to foreign news.

He points out that it has a large team of journalists in Afghanistan, partly funded by an extra 100,000 a week from ITV.


In DepthIN DEPTH
Broadcasting
Charting its past, present and digital future
See also:

22 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
ITN axes 133 jobs
08 Nov 01 | TV and Radio
ITV signs ITN for six years
23 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Sky battles ITN for news contract
31 Jul 01 | TV and Radio
ITN's global expansion
30 Sep 01 | Business
Digital TV firms mull tie-up
28 Sep 01 | Business
Digital TV's commercial woes
26 Jun 01 | Business
Carlton slaps down Granada
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