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ITV jobs at risk under Ofcom plan

Announced proposals cut commitments

LONDON — Hundreds of jobs are at risk at Blighty’s commercial broadcaster ITV as regulator Ofcom announced proposals to dramatically cut its public service commitments, including regional news shows.

A union official denounced Ofcom, which published the second phase of its public service broadcasting review on Thursday, as a “failed” regulator.

But investors reacted favorably to the plan. ITV’s stock price surged by 8% in early trading to 46p subsequently falling back to 44.5p.

ITV stands to save an estimated £40 million ($74 million) a year by scaling back local news shows.

The regulator described the move as “a credible means to sustain quality national and regional news services on ITV1,” but unions were scathing.

Luke Crawley, assistant general secretary at U.K. technicians’ union Bectu, warned that between 300-400 jobs could be lost.

National Union of Journalists general secretary Jeremy Dear said Ofcom had merely rubber-stamped ITV’s proposals.

He said: “It is failing in its duty to protect public service broadcasting. It is failing to guarantee a future for diverse regional news. It is failing to adequately represent the interests of citizens.”

But Ofcom, announcing an extra $435 million of public funding was needed by 2012 to ensure the BBC did not end up as the U.K.’s sole pubcaster, insisted it was committed to maintaining plurality in the provision of public service broadcasting.

In a statement ITV said: “We have consistently argued that the regulatory costs and commercial benefits of holding the ITV licenses need to be re-balanced between now and analog switch off in 2012.

“We welcome Ofcom’s acknowledgement of the need to strike the right balance between these costs and benefits, which is reflected in its proposals for ITV’s regional news services and regional non-news programs.”