Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates has called on the Culture Secretary Maria Millar to develop a separate Channel 3 Licence for Wales.
The new Culture Secretary is currently considering options for the renewal of ITV’s public service licence after 2014 and the Labour AM, who recently chaired an Assembly Enquiry into the Media, has called for a distinct Wales-only licence.
The AM said the future health of ITV was vital to a healthy media in Wales and warned of the impact further staff cutbacks could have on coverage of news and politics.
He said: “The future of ITV in Wales is vital if we are serious about developing a strong media landscape. The current Channel three licence expires in 2014 and the renewal options currently being examined by the Secretary of State are hugely important to the future of public service broadcasting in Wales.
“I believe ITV should have its renewal but as we suggested in our report, maintaining the current licence terms and conditions must be the absolutely bare minimum. As a Bridgend-born Secretary of State, Maria Millar will know the importance of a strong and distinct ITV presence in Wales.
“I would certainly urge the Minister and ITV to be seriously examining the possibility of a separate, Wales-only licence that is commercially sustainable and meets the needs of the community. The importance of this would be that it would make it much easier in future years to encourage other players into the market to develop an alternative Channel three offering for Wales.
“We’ve already seen ITV’s public service broadcasting commitments scaled back quite drastically over the last few years. It’s had a big impact in Wales where ITV now only broadcasts four and a half hours of news and 90 minutes of non-news every week.”
This week ITV announced a wave of redundancies to staff across its regional news with cutbacks affecting technical and support staff including directors, craft editors and camera operators ITV introduces a new centralised graphics unit based in Birmingham.
The move is believed to be the first phase of a two-part redundancy plan, coming after just a handful of staff opted for voluntary redundancy in a scheme announced on September 7.
Mr Skates warned: “If renewal does go ahead I would seriously urge ITV to think long and hard about how the planned regional cutbacks will impact on output here in Wales.
“We have historically had a very weak media in Wales and it is vital both to the plurality of output and to the future of our devolved democracy that we ensure the health and vibrancy of our most important commercial station.
“Cutbacks at ITV Wales in terms of staff and jobs would seriously impact on their ability to be a rigorous and authoritative public service broadcaster for the nation.”