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ITN to shed up to 133 jobs

LONDON - Television and radio news group ITN is cutting up to 133 jobs as part of a cuts programme, after it was forced to slash the cost of providing the ITV news service by £13m a year in order to win the contract.

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The company said the cuts might only amount to 80 jobs, depending on the outcome of negotiations for new broadcast news contracts. Only 10 of the jobs lost will be journalistic, out of a newsroom of 130.

ITN claimed the quality of its broadcasts will not be affected since it has moved to a fully digital operation, which has also helped keep production costs down.

The company said a formal consultation period with staff would begin next week. Voluntary redundancy terms will be available to staff until December 10 and staff will know whether they have been affected by December 14.

It said it will be using an out-placement agency to help affected staff find new work.

The job cuts were first mooted when its long-held ITV contract was challenged by Channel 3 News -- a consortium backed by BSkyB -- which offered to provide ITV with news for around £16m less than ITN. This forced ITN to drastically cut back its tender.

The problem was exacerbated earlier this month when ITN reported losses of £294,000 for 2000, believed to be largely due to its 24-hour TV news operation, ITN News Channel, and its investment in new digital services.

When Channel 3 News launched its bid for the ITV contract, it accused ITN of trying to bump up the price of the ITV contract to help subsidise the cost of breaking into new markets.

The cuts at ITN are largely due to the reduction in what it is being paid for supplying news to ITV. It is thought its new contract is worth £33m-£36m a year, compared with the £46m it had wanted to charge.

ITN recently ceased providing daily news on its website.

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