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Dublin: 11 °C Sunday 17 February, 2019
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UTV jobs in the balance as Newstalk takes over radio news service

Up to eight staff based at the media company’s radio news hub say they’ve been given no indication what will happen to their roles.

Image: Radio jobs via Shutterstock

Updated at 2pm

THE FUTURE ROLES of several reporters and newsreaders at UTV is unclear this afternoon, after Communicorp’s announcement that it will be taking over the broadcaster’s radio network service.

UTV Media Plc, which is due to launch a new TV station in January under the ‘UTV Ireland’ brand, currently runs the radio news service based at Macken House, near the East Link Bridge in Dublin.

Two of the media group’s Irish stations — FM104 and Q102 — are also headquartered there, and a team of reporters and newsreaders are employed by the service to send broadcast material out to a network of stations around the country, including 96FM in Cork and Live 95 FM in Limerick.

Five of the service’s full time news staff are moving to the new TV station before the end of the year. It’s understood UTV bosses made the decision to bring in Newstalk as a radio news provider as a money-saving option.

FM104 and Q102 will continue to have dedicated full-time newsreaders, but full-time and part-time staff employed to cover weekday and weekend reporting shifts have been left in the dark on the broadcaster’s future plans.

“This is all being done very casually,” a source close to one of the affected reporters told TheJournal.ie. 

We don’t know anything at the moment, but tomorrow they said they might know more.

A number of “panicked decisions” had been made by radio bosses at the company in recent weeks, the source said.

Eight workers

It’s understood that eight people who are on casual or probationary deals will be affected by the decision. Most are part-time staff, and the nature of their contracts means they wouldn’t be entitled to redundancy.

Another source familiar with the situation said staff members had been given “vague” indications that some work may be available in the new TV set-up, but were being given no indication as to what would happen to them after this month.

The roster has been done up to the end of October, after that there’s nothing.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, UTV Radio Ireland CEO Ronan McManamy said there would be no redundancies as part of the move.

“In addition, individuals who currently provide services to the newsroom on a shift basis have been advised that their services will continue to be required going forward,” the statement said.

However, our sources said that the affected workers – some of whom work five days a week – had been given no promise of any employment past the end of next week.

They’d been given indications that there wouldn’t be enough work for them, once the change-over took place, one source said.

Reporters in local UTV stations outside of Dublin will be unaffected by the change.

Media group

UTV Media owns a total of six Irish radio stations and a number of stations and websites in the UK, including national broadcaster talkSPORT.

It also owns UTV Ireland, the soon-to-be-launched TV channel. The launch of the new station, which will also be based at Macken House, was announced in November of last year, with the promise of 100 jobs.

Interviews for news roles and other jobs at the new channel have been ongoing for the last number of months.

Network

Newstalk currently operates a network news service for 25 commercial stations around the country — including stations like 98FM, Red FM, Galway Bay and Radio Kerry.

Scripts and audio clips are sent out to the stations from the Dublin newsroom, to be read by in-house newsreaders who also add local detail to their bulletins.

In the evening, a newsreader based at Communicorp HQ in Marconi House reads news and sports bulletins on the hour, which are carried live by the local stations.

An identical service is run by UTV Media — however in that business model, all the local stations that use the service are directly owned by the media group.

An independent national news network, INN, closed down five years ago this month — prompting a competition between the two news providers to take over the service.

Communicorp won over the bulk of the stations in that battle, and media experts have speculated in recent years that UTV could eventually decide to close its service and sign-up with the Denis O’Brien-backed option in order to save on staff costs.

However, in his statement, the UTV Radio CEO insists:

We took the decision to move our national radio news provision to Newstalk to benefit from the collective strength of independent radio across Ireland.

The addition of the UTV group means Communicorp will be the sole news provider to every radio station operating in Ireland outside of RTÉ — 31 in total.

Read: Newstalk’s Chris Donoghue will anchor UTV Ireland’s news programmes

Read: Pat Kenny announces he’ll be joining UTV Ireland

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