The UK’s biggest local TV operator is to shut 13 of its 20 studios, meaning some news bulletins will be hosted by presenters outside the area they serve.
That’s TV operates 20 of the UK’s 34 local TV stations, broadcasting to areas from Southampton to Aberdeen.
The company said it would be keeping reporters in all 20 areas, and that viewers would not notice a difference.
Regulator Ofcom took “the financial difficulties the sector faces” into account when agreeing to the move.
A national network of local stations was launched by then-Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2013 on channel seven or eight on Freeview. That’s TV’s stations combine local news with teleshopping.
In the future, the company will operate seven regional studios, which will each broadcast the news for up to six local stations.
For example, the news for That’s Hampshire, That’s Surrey, That’s South Midlands, That’s Thames Valley, That’s Salisbury and That’s Solent will all come from Salisbury.
Production bases in Dundee, Preston, Grimsby and Norwich are among the others that will close.
That’s TV chief executive Daniel Cass said its reporters would remain in the affected areas.
He told BBC News: “Does it make sense to be investing resources in 20 physical premises where you’re tying up quite a lot of your reporters and journalists in administration and technical work rather than doing what we’re doing going forward, which is freeing them up to spend significant time to be journalists?
“Experience in the industry is that the best use of journalists in terms of their skills and newsgathering ability is out on location gathering news, not stuck in a studio.”
Ofcom said it had been assured “viewers of the services will not notice any difference in the content broadcast, with news items and interviews still recorded within the licensed area of each service and news links recorded in the studio”.
In a report last year, the regulator said the local TV industry “faces challenges in generating sufficient income”.
Mr Cass added: “It’s not a secret that it’s challenging to operate a standalone local TV channel, with studios and premises and technical staff in one location.”
That’s TV wants to “deliver a model which delivers great community-based news reporting in the future”, and it makes sense to make “efficient use of the fact we operate a group that controls 20 licences”, he said.
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