Labour calls for inquiry into Tyne Tees TV: Dossier sent to ITC alleges breaches in television company's franchise pledges

Click to follow
THE INDEPENDENT Television Commission was last night challenged to intervene over alleged breaches in Tyne Tees Television's franchise pledges by a Labour frontbench spokeswoman, who said it put the commission on trial.

Ann Clwyd, Labour's spokeswoman on the national heritage, sent a dossier containing the allegations to Sir George Russell, chairman of the ITC, and called for it to carry out its own inquiry into Tyne Tees.

She also protested to Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage. 'Tyne Tees is nothing less than a test case by which to judge the efficacy of the ITC as a regulatory body. The ending of Tyne Tees' status as an autonomous centre of regional programming would conclusively signal the breakdown of the structure of independent television, set up by the 1990 Broadcasting Act,' Ms Clwyd said, adding that it was making a 'laughing stock' of the ITC.

The company said last night: 'Tyne Tees management is firmly in control of Tynes Tees, which it has always been. It is part of the franchise.' A spokesman said its headquarters would remain in Newcastle.

The ITC this week dismissed allegations by Ms Clwyd about failures at Granada Television, but she is planning to challenge its findings. She said the Act was damaging the quality of commercial television across the country. 'Having invested large sums of money in acquiring their franchises, some of the commercial companies are now watering down their commitments to quality television in an attempt to boost their ratings and to pay their bills.'

Tynes Tees bid pounds 15.57m for its franchise, against a bid of pounds 5.1m by its rival, North East Television. 'There is already sufficient evidence to conclude that Tyne Tees has plans effectively to do away with the separate North-east region. This has produced considerable anxiety among local MPs, councils and the Northern Development Company, which represents business people in the area,' she said. The dossier highlights a 'haemorrhage of key personnel'; alleges that Tyne Tees is effectively controlled from Leeds; and itemises programmes which were promised and not made, or were dropped.

It names 20 key personnel, including Ian Ritchie, the managing director, Adrian Metcalfe, the director of programmes, and David Hellewell, the financial director, who helped to win the franchise for Tyne Tees and have since left the company.

In June 1992, Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees formed a new group. In November that year, it announced 292 redundancies - with 115 at Tyne Tees. Last month, Mr Ritchie was replaced as Tyne Tees's managing director by John Calvert, YTV's director of personnel.

The dossier says Tyne Tees programme and advertising transmission have been transferred to Leeds, headquarters of Yorkshire Television.

'Its news magazine and sports programmes have lost editorial control over where advertising breaks should run, forcing regional producers to tailor programmes to fit YTV running orders.

'TTTV's network producers are now answerable to the Leeds line managers . . . Its senior staff spend an increasing amount of their time in Leeds-based meetings. TTTV has told staff there will be increasing collaboration between TTTV and YTV, that production will be moved about from base to base, that staff will be exchanged, and that managers will be moved,' the dossier adds.

John Dougray, regional officer for the ITC, said that while it was concerned about developments at Tyne Tees, Sir George Russell, its chairman and David Glencross, its chief executive, recently met company executives to express those concerns and have been promised a swift response.