Job losses at Five to continue with Kaplinsky departure

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The Independent Online

The newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky is to leave Five in December, the channel announced yesterday, bringing to an end the multimillion-pound deal which made her Britain's highest-paid current-affairs presenter.

The 38-year-old, who recently returned to her on-screen role after maternity leave, had been due to renegotiate her contract at the end of the year, but the television channel, which was bought by the newspaper owner Richard Desmond this summer, said that both parties had agreed not to renew the deal by mutual agreement.

Neither side would give an official reason for the parting of their ways, but it is understood that plans by Mr Desmond to revamp Five News, which is produced by Sky News, with a stronger focus on entertainment, influenced Ms Kaplinsky's decision.

The former BBC Six O'Clock News presenter joined Five in February 2008 amid much fanfare when her reported salary of £1m a year emerged. Her time with the channel was punctuated by two periods of maternity leave following the births of her children, and in February 2009, she took a £300,000 pay cut in return for dropping the 7pm bulletin from her duties.

A spokesman for Ms Kaplinsky said she had enjoyed her time with the channel but felt it was the right time for her to explore other opportunities.

Mr Desmond, who owns the Daily Express and Daily Star newspapers as well as the celebrity magazine OK!, paid £104m for Five in July this year, marking his first move into mainstream broadcasting.

As well as embarking on a cost-cutting operation which has already resulted in around 80 redundancies, the new proprietor is expected to make the channel more celebrity- and entertainment-oriented, trading on the success of the formula that has made OK! a global brand. He has promised to invest £300m a year in Five "to go toe-to-toe with the biggest players in the TV world".

It emerged last month that talks between Five and the Dutch-based production house Endemol to acquire the Big Brother format had stalled shortly before a deal was due to be finalised – although it is understood the two companies are also discussing an entirely new reality television show.