Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has placed a question-mark over the future of 600 editorial jobs when the current ITV licence fee period comes to an end.
Speaking at the Oxford Media Conference yesterday as he unveiled new plans for a channel six network of local TV stations, he said: "When we have this structure in place. I will be very relaxed as to what happens in regional news."
He added that it that the public service broadcasters would "have a much freer hand over what they thought was appropriate for the future for their regional services. I would leave it to the PSBs what to do".
The provision of high-quality local news is currently enshrined in the ITV licence agreement and it means that ITV effectively subsidises the service to the amount of up to £50m a year. Two years ago ITV slashed its regional editorial staff by around 40 per cent, but that still leaves over 600 working in the regions for ITV.