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Tuesday 6 December 2016

UTV Ireland stars could move to TV3 as jobs losses loom

Alison Comyn could be set for a return to TV3 as UTV Ireland staff members face an uncertain future
Alison Comyn could be set for a return to TV3 as UTV Ireland staff members face an uncertain future

Top TV faces including newsreaders Alison Comyn and Claire Brock could return to TV3 after the broadcaster finalised its acquisition of UTV Ireland.

The pair were among the high-profile presenters who joined UTV Ireland when it launched last year.

TV3 has confirmed it intends to close UTV Ireland's premises in Dublin's docklands and amalgamate the operation with its own studio in Ballymount.

Rebrand

It is understood TV3 will announce the new name for UTV Ireland, possibly B3, on Tuesday. The rebrand will be completed next month.

TV3 - which, like Virgin Media, is owned by US billionaire John Malone's Liberty Global group - warned yesterday that there would be some "unavoidable redundancies" as it closes the UTV Ireland premises.

The studio and offices at Macken House had been kitted out at significant expense prior to UTV Ireland's launch.

They were opened by Enda Kenny in December 2014.

TV3 agreed in July to buy UTV Ireland from ITV for €10m. ITV had acquired UTV Ireland and UTV Northern Ireland last year for more than €100m.

UTV Ireland - which had been losing money since its launch - employs 61 full-time staff and a handful of freelancers.

They will be able to apply for jobs with TV3, which has 40 vacancies at its Ballymount premises. The station currently employs about 250 people.

A number of former TV3 staff, including Claire Brock, left to join UTV Ireland at launch. Other big names who worked at UTV Ireland included Pat Kenny. He left the station at the end of last year when his chat show had been cancelled.

In a statement yesterday, TV3 said that it will enter into a 30-day consultation period beginning on Monday.

Strengthen

It is expected the process will be substantially completed next month.

TV3 managing director Pat Kiely said the amalgamation of UTV Ireland into TV3 "strengthens independent television broadcasting in Ireland by bringing together great channels and great content under one roof".

He added: "The combined TV3 Group business is now better-equipped to compete against local and international broadcasters. We can now play an increasingly bigger role in the development of Irish-originated production and broadcasting."

Mr Kiely said TV3's new three-channel structure will "drive the future potential and long-term growth of the business".

TV3 has had success with productions such as Red Rock, which has been sold to channels including the BBC and Amazon Prime.

Last week, TV3 said Coronation Street and Emmerdale would return to the channel this month from UTV Ireland.

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