Labour attacks CEO's pay
MSPs ready to grill STV chief Pitts on planned cuts
Simon Pitts: urged to explain the scale of cuts
STV’s chief executive Simon Pitts will face MSPs today to explain his plan to close digital channel STV2 and slash jobs.
Former ITV executive Mr Pitts succeeded Rob Woodward in January and last month unveiled the results of a root and branch review of the business which will see 59 jobs lost.
His plans, which will save the broadcaster £2 million, were immediately criticised by polticians and trade union reps and a strike ballot is under way.
Mr Pitts appears before Holyrood’s culture, tourism and external affairs committee today amid concern at the impact of his plans.
Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop wrote to media regulator Ofcom following the STV jobs announcement expressing concern about its ability to meet its public service commitments.
Mr Pitts’ plans coincide with Glasgow being shortlisted as a base for Channel Four which is relocating a large chunk of its operations out of London. It could see the fall-out from STV as a ready made source of skilled staff.
The cutbacks also come less than a year after STV announced it was returning £10 million to shareholders over 18 months. It made the decision despite a 26% fall in half-year profits and a decline in advertising revenue. STV2 delivered a 50% increase in half-year revenue.
Ahead of today’s committee meeting, Scottish Labour has turned the focus on Mr Pitts’ remuneration package.
The party’s culture spokesman Claire Baker wants him to explain why he is making dozens of workers redundant for ‘savings’ whilst pocketing £1.25 million in wages and bonus payments.
He is paid a basic annual salary of £400,000 and the company’s annual report shows that on joining the company he received a £187,000 ‘golden hello’ and deferred shares valued at £666,000. The shares will be distributed to him in tranches.
The additional payments were to compensate him for rewards he gave up on leaving ITV, where he was managing director for online, pay TV, interactive and technology.
Ms Baker, who sits on the committee, said: “These job losses are not only a devastating blow to those workers affected but to Scotland’s entire media industry.
“For a national broadcaster to scale back its news operations in a bid to make ‘savings’ whilst its chief executive pockets more than £1m is deeply concerning.
“I am keen to hear how Simon Pitts can justify a gold plated remuneration package whilst making staff redundant under the guise of cost cutting.
“Scotland needs a strong and independent news sector to hold both governments at Westminster and Holyrood to account. STV have been lauded for its local and national news and politics coverage, these redundancies seriously risk undermining that.”
The committee is currently conducting an inquiry into Scotland’s TV and movie industry and how recommendations from an earlier report on strengthening and developing it can be implemented.