Under fire STV chief rules out sell-off to ITV

STV chief executive Simon Pitts says the broadcaster won't be sold off
STV chief executive Simon Pitts says the broadcaster won't be sold off
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STV chief executive Simon Pitts insisted that the broadcaster is not being readied for a sell-off to the wider ITV network as he faced a grilling from MSPs today.

But the under fire boss faced criticism over the £853,000 "golden hello" package he received when taking over the post after the shock decision last month to axe 59 jobs and close down loss-making STV2.

Mr Pitts insisted that "hardly anybody" was watching STV2 and insisted the recent cutbacks is the only way the broadcaster can survive in the changing digital age when fewer people are watching TV news.

Green MSP Ross Greer challenged Mr Pitts over his claims that he is making "tough decisions" at Holyrood’s Culture committee. "You, this year, will receive £1.2 million in total earnings - there are people in your newsroom on £18,000 a year - journalists who are facing redundancy," Mr Greer said.

"Now the harsh decision for them is that that's their livelihood. It must be incredibly hard for them to stomach that when they see people at the other end of the organisation receiving the kind of remuneration that you are.


"Do you understand how harsh that is for them and did you consider forfeiting any of your total potential earnings for this year?"


The boss accepted it was a "horrible" situation for those facing redundancy.


"It is a very difficult situation. We have made difficult decisions that have a real impact on people's lives in order to be able to grow this business, in order to use the savings we are making to re-invest for the fututre and also take some of the profit we are making and -reinvest for the future that is exactly what we are doing."


"I understand that these decisions are very difficult for the people concerned, of course I do but they are necessary to build for the future."

Read more: STV chief to be grilled over seven-figure salary


STV made a profit of £18 million last year and the cuts will save about £2 million a year. Mr Pitts insisted that the changes will allow the channel to invest in making more original programming in Scotland with £5 million a year to be invested in this.


And he also rejected concerns that the cuts were paving the way for STV, the last independent "channel 3" broadcaster in the UK, to be sold onto the wider UK network.


"This is not a strategy to prepare STV for sale to ITV or anyone else - if that was the case we simply wouldn't be investing."
He told MSPs that STV2, originally launched as STV Glasgow four years ago, has made a "significant financial loss" every year since.
"The disappointing truth is that despite the best efforts of the talented STV team, very few people are watching the channel," he said.

NUJ Scotland organiser John Toner said: “Mr Pitts showed no response when a committee member pointed out that he earns 22 times more than some STV journalists. This does not bode well for our members.

“He provided inaccurate information to the committee on job descriptions and salary information being provided to staff.

“In the absence of a clear detailed plan from management on how they propose to maintain the quality of STV News output with fewer journalists and craft cameras, NUJ members cannot get on board with the restructuring. Once again we call on STV to take the proposals off the table and to enter into meaningful negotiations with the NUJ.

“We are committed to continuing talks with the company to obtain the information our members require.”