Anglia TV axe popular presenters

SOME of the best-known faces on regional television are to disappear from our screens as part of a major shake-up at ITV Anglia, it has emerged.

SOME of the best-known faces on regional television are to disappear from our screens as part of a major shake-up at ITV Anglia, it has emerged.

Colleagues were said to be shocked and angry that Clare Weller, who has fronted Anglia's main evening news show for 11 years, is to be dropped from the programme in the New Year.

She is to be replaced on the Anglia Tonight programme by Becky Jago, who will present alongside current host Jonathan Wills.

Award-winning reporter John Francis, who formerly presented the programme with Ms Weller, is also understood to have lost his job.

Other casualties include long-serving journalists Rebecca Atherstone and Dianne Stradling. Essex-based reporter Timothy Evans is taking voluntary redundancy.

Stephen Lee, who presented the show with Ms Weller until earlier this year, announced this month he was leaving Anglia and emigrating to Australia, saying: “It's a difficult time here for everybody Lots of people are facing an uncertain future and I have every sympathy with them.”

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About 30 jobs at Anglia News - a third of its workforce - are being cut as part of a national plan by ITV to save £40m a year by axing more than 400 posts across its regional news service.

The broadcaster is cutting the number of main regional news programmes in England and the Scottish borders from 17 to nine.

Currently the Anglia region is divided into two, with viewers in the east and west getting separate shows, both broadcast from Norwich. These are being scrapped in favour of a single programme covering the entire region, from Lowestoft in the east to parts of Leicestershire in the west.

The current presenters of the Anglia West bulletin, Caroline Oldrey and Tim Curtis, have also lost their jobs.

It is understood both they and Ms Weller were told the news on Monday morning, shortly before Ms Weller and Mr Curtis were due to present lunchtime bulletins.

An Anglia source said: “Clare is a very popular and very professional presenter. She and Jonathan had built up a really good presenting rapport. They seemed the ideal team and bounced off each other really well.

“There is a state of shock and some anger at the way that this has been handled. It was done on Monday morning when she was due to present a lunchtime bulletin.

“There is no good time to do this, but surely it's better on a Friday so they have the weekend to recover?

“People feel very sorry for her and pretty fed up with the management. It's a sad day.”

Ms Weller, 40, began her career as a reporter on a newspaper in Kent and joined Anglia in 1997 as a news anchor, also presenting shows including Crime Night and Cover Story.

She married fellow broadcaster Simon Brant two years ago at St Mary's Church, Somerleyton.

A former colleague of Ms Weller said: “Clare is a hugely talented presenter and very popular with Anglia viewers.

“A lot of them will be surprised and disappointed that a professional, cheery, friendly face who has been part of their family five nights a week for 11 years is going.

“This really is an indictment of the way that the ITV regions are imploding. From January, there will be no non-news regional programming from Anglia or any other ITV region.

“It irritates a lot of people to read quotes from senior management that the news service will be better. How can it be better when they are going from a dual service to a single service?

“They're losing some very high-calibre television journalists. Even this is not the end. A lot of people see this as regional Armageddon.”

Helen McDermott hosted Anglia's evening news programme for over a decade, but was dropped from the show in 2001, with some suggesting her age had counted against her.

She said last night: “I'm really sorry to hear what's happening at Anglia. Having been through it myself, I know it's quite a frightening time.

“I presented with both Clare and John, and both were very professional and lovely to work with.

“It's really sad that Anglia will be going down to one programme. It will be half the service it was.”

Ms Weller declined to comment.

An ITV spokesman refused to confirm which staff would be leaving, saying only: “We have made it clear there are ongoing changes. We have set out clear deadlines and remain in consultation with all staff and unions at ITV News.”

David Beake, of the NUJ National Executive, said: “While I cannot comment on the people involved, ITV Anglia's mass sacking of its staff is disgraceful.

“ITV Anglia has broken its commitment to its staff, its commitments to the region, and its freely entered into commitments to public service broadcasting.

“Hurt, fear and despair are the result when a company's respect is reserved solely for its bottom line.

“The company has even acted before the regulator Ofcom has delivered the final stage of its report. ITVAnglia's actions will be very much regretted by the entire community.”

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