This morning, I have posted an ‘open letter’ to Simon Pitts who is the Chief Executive of STV over plans to axe 59 employees at the broadcaster.
As a newly qualified broadcast journalist in Scotland and even though I’m not employed directly by STV, I am absolutely alarmed, outraged and saddened by this news. The disappearance of those 59 jobs at STV will strike a serious dent into the future of the mainstream media in Scotland and make life much more difficult for me as a broadcast journalist looking to fulfil my aspirations and take my career forward should I seek a permanent position (I’m enjoying freelancing at the moment!). However, staying angry with no constructive method of articulating my feelings is no option to me, hence my writing of this letter for Simon’s attention.
Here is what I said to him:
I hope this letter reaches you safely.
I am writing to you in relation to the decision taken to axe 59 jobs at STV (STV2 and STV News specifically) as part of a group-wide restructure.
I am not an employee of the broadcaster, but let me assure you, what I say in my letter is not less important as a result, because the decision taken will not just impact upon the people within the business which you lead, but, outside the business, upon my future and the future of many of my fellow journalists north of the border as well. I fear the loss of jobs at STV will have wider ramifications for Scotland’s mainstream media as a whole, meaning everyone will lose, particularly professionals like me wanting to progress in the future.
It is in my interests to ensure mainstream journalism is healthy and contains the properly viable career opportunities people like me need in order to grow professionally, build a fulfilling career, track record and even win accolades for work brilliantly done and also gain a healthy living out of working in this industry in order to properly look after ourselves, our families and those closest to us.
I am a relatively new broadcast journalist in Scotland. I have only recently successfully taken off the journalism runway following finding freelance radio work in Fife for Kingdom FM and successfully achieving my MA in Broadcast Journalism from the University of the West of Scotland last year. And all this follows many years of desperately seeking how to go about stepping upon the first successful step in trying to initiate a career in the media.
Also, I’m a qualified pharmacist by trade originally. Why is this relevant? Because, more than ever before, Scotland’s and the UK’s mainstream media needs a bigger diversity of talent, voices and expertise, an injection (please excuse the unintended pun) of excitability, flair and enhanced creativity to continue to enable content being delivered to the public to be relevant whether that’s in news, sport, health, culture and other relevant topics of public interest.
John MacKay, Halla Mohieddeen, Jennifer Reoch, Bernard Ponsonby, Raman Bhardwaj, Laura Boyd, Zara Janjua, David Farrell, Emma Cameron and Gerry Cassidy – just some people at STV who others like me look to for inspiration (and I stress that list of names is not exhaustive – don’t want to inadvertently upset anyone now!). I’m currently not bad myself and I do want to rightfully think I’m potentially as good as all of them, if not better, God willing.
In fact, in my wildest dreams, I want to be supremely extraordinary and memorable for all the right reasons. I love broadcasting and knew what I always wanted to do when I was a young boy. And with the right tender, loving care in the years ahead from those with the gift of possible support, mentoring and advice, I can most definitely fulfil my full potential within this industry. It might be a cut throat industry, but like elsewhere, the best of humanity must prevail.
But the only way for me to reach the level of those accomplished in this industry is to be reassured as I progress in my broadcasting career, opportunities will be there for the taking for journalists like me to grow, enjoy making the best of and continuously developing my skills, experience and knowledge. And for me, it isn’t just about developing one’s career.
It’s also about people – meeting new people across different aspects of life, improving my contacts, finding out more about the contemporary and pressing issues that matter to others, explaining and telling compelling stories to the viewer, listener or consumer and ensuring when I go home at night, I go home with a smile on my face, my dignity in tact and a strong sense of high job satisfaction.
A dent in employment opportunities is a dent in the media landscape for everyone – there might well be competition between different channels and outlets, but there is, to some extent, a sense of need for collaboration and, to a greater extent, a widespread respect amongst everyone in this industry. And rightly so. It is the only way. I despise the idea of seeing others fail, because when others struggle, so do I.
I’m a big fan of Newcastle United. Many people, including me, at the start of the season last August understandably thought my team would go straight back into the English Championship from the English Premier League. But we finished 10th last weekend, following our well earned 3-0 win over Chelsea at St James’ Park.
And why did we, initial candidates for relegation, finish in the Premier League’s top 10? Because Rafa Benítez, his coaching staff and my fellow Newcastle fans brought out the best in our players, especially when the odds were stacked against them. The last couple of paragraphs, including this one, may seem irrelevant in the context of things, but I can assure you it isn’t. As the banner at the Gallowgate end of the stadium said a few days ago: “Where there is unity, there is always victory”
And the same philosophy applies everywhere in life, including broadcasting. I can count many examples at Kingdom FM where the quote above was absolutely relevant. A healthy broadcasting industry and working environment is good for everyone – it means everyone can win and stretch their talent as far as possible, especially if enough viable opportunities are present.
STV2’s main programme, ‘Live at Five’, was personally enjoyed by me especially when I was invited as a guest on it last summer, discussing current stories in the media on the show. I got to experience how the programme is broadcast live to the country and was especially impressed with the feel good vibe on the show and around it. And prior to that experience, I have also been fortunate to have two work placements with STV News, giving me a strong insight into television broadcast news in Scotland.
I appreciate you have to ensure STV is financially healthy and keep the business as efficient as possible. Nobody can genuinely blame you for this. But in order for you to gain good results to keep the broadcaster healthy, you have to remember this one word – growth.
Axing 59 jobs from your company is not growth. Doing away with STV2 altogether, whilst I reserve my own personal constructive mild criticism of the channel (which I currently don’t have time to expand upon nor I think is relevant at this time), is not growth. And not bringing to the table a better, sensible and viable alternative, which ensures those affected and their talents can be made best use of in a different way and in a meaningful manner, is not growth.
STV’s future plans, as reported widely yesterday, will inflict uncertainty upon people’s lives and on people’s aspirations like my own and possibly even force me to reconsider staying here in Scotland, facing no choice but to leave home possibly for good in order to seek realistically viable opportunities. In stronger words, your company’s so called ‘positive vision’ will inadvertently and inevitably result in a negative nightmare with serious widespread consequences for the Scottish broadcasting industry unless you urgently switch direction.
It does not make STV, even their competitors nor Scotland look good if relatively young journalists with aspirations, like myself, submit a personal vote of no confidence in their own country and push themselves vigorously for better job opportunities elsewhere. Scotland’s major TV commercial broadcaster, whilst it most definitely has a responsibility to be financially viable, also has a vital duty of care to not only cater for the public’s need for reliable information, but to ensure it can attract the most enthusiastic, aspirational and talented journalists in order to help drive the company’s ambition and to keep Scotland well informed.
I appreciate you are a busy man. I appreciate you are a man with major pressure in your position. But you may please reply by letter, e-mail or even telephone me – I invite you to do in order to discuss the issues raised within my letter. Perhaps it might well be a possibility that, somehow, we will cross paths. And if we do, I’ll greet you with a smile and a willingness to constructively chat.
I want to make clear the text of this letter will be made publicly available on my own website as an ‘open letter’ once I’ve put this letter in the post. I simply don’t want to sit at home feeling sorry for myself and would rather articulate my thoughts in a meaningful way.
And here’s one final thought. I have no question you want the best for STV. It would be utterly idiotic for anyone to suggest otherwise. But cutting back without a healthy and viable alternative plan and making the best use of talent, including those people affected by the proposed cuts, you currently have working alongside you in a different yet constructive way to help grow STV will only bring nothing but disappointment and not lead to the success you aim for. Their livelihoods, as well as the health of STV, matter.
I genuinely wish you well and look forward to speaking with you sooner rather than later.