Thursday, 20 January 2011

Regional ITV News... A Race To The Bottom.

My heart feels heavy for the future of the regional ITV News Networks. Time was, not so very long ago, i would turn up to a breaking news story to film some court case / Death / Accident / Corporate shenanigans and such like, and would be shoulder to shoulder with my opposite number from ITV Regional news, filming the same thing and generally getting in each others way. Basically we would compete for the best angles, best sequences, and race for the prize of being there first, and telling the story better than the other side.

The other side... complete with natty hat and sharp elbows.
That said, i became firm frienemies with many of my fellow cameramen and journalists who stalked my patch in search of kicking our ass with a better story. It was their job, and they did it well. Competition thrived, and local stories were told from all over our part of the UK. However, ITV's heart was never really in the regional news game, but had to deliver it as part of their regional TV Broadcasting licence, with a budget that only just does the job. This licence expires in the next few years, and having read many articles on the subject i now believe regional news broadcasting, from ITV anyway, will never be the same again.

I have already witnessed the demise of regional ITV news offices here in the south, with many people either losing their jobs or having to re apply for their own job, with radically altered terms and conditions. Starved of cash, they just couldn't go on as they were.

The result of this, for me anyway, is that i rarely get to see any of the cameramen and reporters that i used to see on a daily basis. I can sometimes go for months without seeing a guy i used to see 2 or 3 times a week. I know they are out there, they just don't cover as much as they once did, because they don't have the resources or the money to do so anymore.

It would seem that our current Government has a plan. Deregulate the market, slash the funding to wafer thin and see what the market comes up with. Let the people decide who broadcasts the local news and let market forces decide it's fate. Yep, that'll sort it.

Deregulation of local news broadcasting, in my opinion, will not safeguard the future of quality regional news. People need to be informed of what is happening in their local areas by independent, unbiased journalism and the best quality pictures from good quality camera operators. Unfortunately, i think that market forces will drive local ITV regional news into the arms of someone with an eye on the bottom line and to hell with the quality and independence. They will make as much as they can for as little money as possible and as few people as they think they can get away with. You may say that this is what is happening now, and i would agree. But wait until deregulation kicks in, the money gets slashed and your local station is taken over by a corporation with a padlocked wallet and their own idea of what you should be watching, what politics you should be thinking and just how independently informed you should be.

Think about that for a while.....