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MSPs criticise media redundancies

4 December 08 15:11 GMT

There has been cross-party condemnation of planned job cuts across the Scottish media during a debate on broadcasting at Holyrood.

MSPs attacked moves by the Herald and Times Group to make 240 staff redundant at three newspaper titles and rehire only 200, perhaps on reduced wages.

They also criticised plans to make up to 70 job cuts at BBC Scotland.

The broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, was also urged to help secure the future of public service broadcasting on STV.

Conservative MSP Ted Brocklebank opened the debate by raising concerns that Scotland could suffer if extra funds were not invested in a "healthy, competitive" service, alongside the BBC.

The former TV executive warned that public service broadcasting in commercial TV was under threat.

He said Scotland's interests could be damaged if ITV chief executive Michael Grade acquired a single UK licence.

"Michael Grade is arguing that ITV subsidises the three independent licences to the tune of £25m a year - a charge STV refutes - but there are understandable fears that a nationwide ITV could actually compete head-to-head with STV in Scotland," he said.

Mr Brocklebank called on Ofcom to support STV, or a successor, taking on a public service remit for Scotland - including the Border region.

Culture Minister Linda Fabiani voiced concern over plans to cut 70 posts in 2009/2010 at BBC Scotland - a view supported by Labour's Pauline McNeill.

She said the BBC had an important role to play within broadcasting, stating: "I'm sure we will all continue to scrutinise the quality of output, because we do want to see that continue at the BBC."

Ms McNeill also raised the issue of "draconian" tactics to achieve jobs cuts at the Herald and Times Group during First Minister's Questions.

In response, Alex Salmond, said: "If this was happening in another employer in Scotland, if an approach was being taken to make an entire workforce redundant and then to ask people to re-apply for their jobs, what we would imagine that the editorial stance of the Herald newspaper - in its traditions - would be?

"If we imagine, as I would, that in terms of the tradition of that newspaper, they would appeal for exactly what Pauline McNeill has put forward, then I think the owners of the Herald group should think carefully about the credibility of the newspaper given the actions and style that they've adopted."

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