TV3 lays off 15 and cuts news coverage as ad revenue slumps

Tue, Oct 21, 2008, 01:00

TV3 HAS made 15 people redundant and is cutting back on its weekend news bulletins because of the advertising downturn.

From the beginning of November, its half-hour news bulletins on Saturday and Sunday at 5.30pm will be reduced to mini-bulletins lasting five minutes.

The Political Party, presented by Ursula Halligan, will be moved from its 5pm slot on Sunday to 11pm on Friday night.

The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI), which regulates the station, has been informed of the changes.

The redundancies were made recently in studio operations and the corporate area. There was also a reduction of freelance staff in the news section.

TV3 director of news Andrew Hanlon said they were directly affected by the same downturn in television advertising revenue which has led to cutbacks in RTÉ.

"We have had a substantial slump in advertising revenue," he said. "The reason we are feeling the slump so much is because we traded off a discount price of what RTÉ trade at.

"RTÉ are down 20 per cent which means that we are down 20 per cent and that reflects on how our business works.

"We have always traded at a lower rate than RTÉ and our rates have to reflect the ups and downs of their rate card. We're feeling a huge pinch and we've had to cut back."

Mr Hanlon said the decision was made to cut back on the weekend output rather than the weekday schedule which has been expanded in recent years with the addition of a new chat show, Midday, the Irish version of The Apprentice, the entertainment show Xposéand the Nightly News with Vincent Browne.

The BCI, which regulates TV3, has been informed of the cutbacks. TV3 has an obligation to generate 20 per cent of its output through home-programming, although the station claims it is now exceeding 25 per cent.

Cutbacks have also been announced north of the Border by UTV as a result of the economic downturn and regulatory changes.

Ofcom, the UK's broadcasting regulator, has stated that UTV can reduce its home programming requirements from 5 hours and 20 minutes of news and four hours of non-news programme to four hours of news and 1.5 hours of non-news programming a week.

Staff in the news division have been offered voluntary redundancy. The company has cited a "challenging economic environment" and the recent Ofcom announcement for the cutbacks.