INDEPENDENT Television News has become the first casualty on the electronic media battlefield as Rupert Murdoch's Sky News channel attempts to move into the international satellite market, writes James Cusick.
Morale at ITN in London, where employees recently learnt of further staff reductions, was said to be 'depressingly low' yesterday as it was learnt it had lost, to Sky, its award-winning South African correspondent and his cameramen.
The reporter Jeremy Thompson and cameraman Ian Robbie, both of whom this year won Emmy awards for their coverage of the Bisho massacre, have signed contracts with Sky and will shortly leave ITN. The other bureau cameraman is also believed to have defected. They were targeted last month by an executive from the Murdoch parent company, News Corporation, who flew to South Africa to 'buy' the bureau.
Mr Murdoch's plans to rival the Atlanta-based satellite news service, Cable News Network, were announced in London last month. Sky International, which aims to be operational next year, is head-hunting to allow it to make a credible challenge to CNN. An ITN producer claimed that approaches had been made to bureau staff in Moscow and Washington. The anchorman Trevor Macdonald is said to have declined an offer from Sky.