Ulster Unionist Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has expressed his shock and sorrow at the news that UTV plc is considering selling off its television interests, following the disastrous launch of UTV Ireland.
Mr Nesbitt, who worked for UTV as a frontline presenter for 13 years, said:
“Whatever you think of UTV, they were brilliant at making a connection with the viewer. UTV was your local station, not a local branch of a national operation.
“Having spent so many years making UTV stand out from ITV, the news that ITV are the most likely buyer has the whiff of surrender.
“UTV changed fundamentally when they became a stock listed company, some would say UTV lost its soul. It certainly saw a switch of focus from the viewer to satisfying the shareholder. Hence the ill-fated venture into the Republic of Ireland market.
“I am not aware of how advanced negotiations are with ITV, but I would encourage anyone with the necessary access to finance to look carefully at the possibility of a local buy-out to retain UTV’s unique brand.
“At its best, UTV does things others cannot do. Northern Ireland viewers need a strong, local independent television station, not least to offer competition to BBC Northern Ireland.”