Scotland’s leading commercial broadcaster has confirmed it will close one of its channels and shed jobs across its news team as part of a group-wide restructure.
STV will close the loss-making STV2 in June, with station bosses blaming the “challenging economics of local television and anticipated increased competition from BBC Scotland” for the decision.
The Scotsman understands 34 jobs in the news division are at risk - the majority of which are production roles - with a two-week period of voluntary redundancy being followed by a consultation.
The digital newsdesk will be reorganised with many existing roles going.
Some staff reacted with anger at the station’s Glasgow headquarters following the announcement on Wednesday, which will see five local TV licenses that were part of STV2 sold, and 25 roles associated with the channel cut.
Viewers in Edinburgh and the east coast will lose the separate edition of STV’s flagship evening news bulletin as a result of the changes. Instead, 10 minutes of local content will be broadcast with the remainder of the 30 minute programme being produced by a central team in Glasgow.
STV said in a statement its broadcast business remained “strong” and was likely to outperform the ITV network due to a favourable deal with ITV which insulates STV from a decline in the national advertising market.
Staff were informed of the restructure this morning. While the closure of STV2 was widely expected, one staffer told The Scotsman they were “stunned” at the scale of the changes.
STV has been undergoing a period of transition following the appointment of Simon Pitts as chief executive in August 2017. Announcing a strategic review in March, Pitts said the company’s performance had been resilient in what he described as a “tricky year” in the marketplace.
In a statement issued today, the STV chief executive said the broadcaster remained committed to delivering the “best news service in Scotland” despite cut-backs.
Mr Pitts described the restructure as a “positive vision” that would “reestablish the company as a creative force in Scotland and beyond”.
He continued: “Our de-risked broadcast business is resilient and provides the engine room for STV’s growth. We will use our unique marketing platform to showcase new formats from STV Productions, drive viewing to STV Player and get even closer to advertisers through the launch of our new Growth Fund for Scottish business.
“News is fundamental to the STV brand and we remain committed to offering the best news service in Scotland. However, given how quickly news consumption is changing it is vital that STV evolves to stay competitive, and we are therefore launching a comprehensive change programme - STV News 2020 - that will see us invest in skills, technology and digital as well as delivering cost savings.
“As a result of the challenging economics of local television and anticipated increased competition from BBC Scotland, we have taken the difficult decision to close our loss-making STV2 channel to focus our future content investment on STV and the STV Player. I’d like to thank the STV2 team for everything they have achieved over the last four years.”
Scottish Conservative culture secretary Rachael Hamilton said: “This is a hammer blow to broadcasting in Scotland, and to journalism here more generally.
“STV is a trusted news source and should be investing in people, not sacking them.
“At a time when the BBC is expanding in Scotland, and with talk of Channel 4 moving here, people will wonder what on earth STV management are doing.
“Clearly these projects which are now being cut – at huge human cost – were not properly thought through or organised by senior management.
“They’re the ones who have the questions to answer, not hard-working journalists and editorial staff.”
John Toner, national organiser of the NUJ in Scotland, said: “Today’s announcement to cut 59 jobs across STV news and STV2 is a devastating blow to the staff who work tirelessly to provide some of the best news and current affairs programmes in Scotland.
“The loss of 34 jobs in news and the closure of STV2 with the ending of the flagship STV News Tonight Scottish and international news programme will lead to a massive reduction in the breadth and depth of news coverage viewers in Scotland currently enjoy.
“It is also clear that a multi-platform newsroom will introduce an entirely new way of working, which will have consequences for the way that news is gathered and delivered.
“Staff have worked extremely hard on the STV2 channel, and the quality of the output is not in doubt. The decision to bring this channel to an end is no reflection on the abilities or professionalism of the staff.
“We also find it bizarre that the Edinburgh edition of STV News at Six will cease and will be replaced with a ten-minute opt.
“The NUJ will work with STV management to try to reduce the number of redundancies required, and we are resolved that compulsory redundancies will be strongly opposed.”