All entries for Tuesday 13 January 2009

January 13, 2009

BBC–ITV marriage is probably a good thing

It’s looking more likely that the BBC and ITV are going to merge some of their regional TV news operations.

In a year or two, it’s more than possible that your local BBC and ITV bulletins will come from the same building, using many of the same pictures and one or two of the same staff.

I think this is probably the only way the duopoly of regional television news can be saved.

ITV is trying to shed some of its responsibility for producing public service television. I feel that’s partly because they’ve got a good point that in a country with 700 television channels, the iPlayer and the internet, ITV can’t maintain the level of service they had in the 1970s. But I think it’s also because they’re trying to be a bit cheeky and squeeze more profit out of what remains a privileged position.

This deal, if it goes ahead, could well prop up the status quo, and might even improve bulletins. There should be more pictures to go around. More small-scale events will find a cameraman is available, and you’re more likely to be featured twice on the telly, rather than once.

But some staff – particularly, I would guess – cameramen, will probably go as a result of this.

That’s more bad news for journalism – an industry that’s shrinking faster than Northern Rock’s share price did last year.

But the deal to share resources will give us two competing bulletins until 2016 at least. That’s good news – and should give us better news.

P.S. The technical aspects of this are hilarious. I’d imagine a merger of their operations will only work if they’re using the same systems. ITV use something called iNews. The BBC use something called ENPS. Both are completely different, and I’m not sure they can share things very easily while using two. In the short term, this deal could be more expensive than it looks.

P.P.S. The deal will be a bigger culture shock for the BBC than for ITV staff, I reckon. The number of press conferences that the BBC still sends three teams to is mind-boggling.

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