STV Chief Exec: job cut plans horrible but necessary
7 June 2018, 15:00 | Updated: 7 June 2018, 15:01
STV chief executive Simon Pitts has told MSPs plans which could see more than 50 workers lose their jobs are "necessary" to guarantee the future of the broadcaster and denied it is being readied to be sold off.
The broadcaster announced plans last month to close its loss-making STV2 channel and restructure its news operation, putting a total of 59 jobs at risk and sparking a ballot for industrial action.
Mr Pitts told Holyrood's Culture Committee "hardly anyone" watched STV2, with the flagship 7pm news programme attracting 1,800 viewers, and plans to create famous shows in Scotland to be sold worldwide "if we get it right" could create many more jobs "dwarfing" those currently under threat.
He was also challenged to justify his remuneration package in light of the planned job cuts, which includes a £853,000 "golden hello" on taking up his job in January, comprising a £187,000 payment along with deferred shares worth £666,000, in addition to his basic salary of £400,000.
Green MSP Ross Greer said: "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.
"Now, the harsh decision for them is that that's their livelihood and 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?"
Mr Pitts did not clarify if he had considered forfeiting any of his remuneration but said the package had been approved by the STV board and shareholders.
He said: "I understand how difficult the situation is for the people who facing redundancy. It's horrible.
"We have made a series of difficult decisions that have a real impact on people's lives.
"We have done that in order to be able to grow this business to use the savings we are making in order to re-invest for the future."
STV made a profit of £18 million last year and the changes are expected to save £2 million a year, with a further £5 million a year being invested in new programmes.
"This is not a strategy to prepare STV for sale to ITV or anyone else. If that were the case, then we simply wouldn't be investing," Mr Pitts said.
Convener Joan McAlpine said the committee "remains concerned" about the proposed changes to news coverage and plans to take further evidence from the broadcaster.
She said: "We question STV management's assertion it is possible to produce higher-quality news coverage with fewer journalists.
"Mr Pitts said he would consider sharing the DMA media consultants' report used to justify the changes. The committee will write to him formally asking for a copy.
"Mr Pitts' stated ambition to generate more content in Scotland is welcome but it remains unclear as to how this will be done, or exactly how it will be funded."