Channel Five announces massive staff cut amidst restructuring

Chief executive and chairman Dawn Airey is among the 60-80 staffers leaving the company.
August 11, 2010

Channel Five in the United Kingdom will lose between 60 to 80 staffers in a round of job cuts announced today as part of a new cost-saving measure undertaken by new owner Richard Desmond and new parent company Northern & Shell, which acquired the terrestrial network last month.

Chief executive and chairman Dawn Airey is leaving the company, but will remain on board for several months to oversee the station’s integration into Northern & Shell before taking up a senior role at the RTL Group, Five’s former owner.

‘The day Five was sold, my job was done,’ Airey said in a statement. ‘I love Five, its staff, its spirit and all we have achieved. I wish the channel, its team, Richard Desmond and Northern & Shell all the success they deserve.’

‘Whilst I’m sorry to see Dawn move on, I’m thrilled that she’ll be in the mix to contribute to the various exciting plans we have and oversee the acquisition and development of brilliant new content,’ said Desmond in the statement.

The extent of the cuts to programming is not yet known. ‘The changes are subject to consultation with staff,’ Channel Five spokesperson Andrew Sholl told realscreen. ‘But we envisage they will affect most if not all departments, including programming.’

Among the departing are six board directors, channel controller Richard Woolfe, director of strategy Charles Constable, and director of corporate affairs Sue Robertson. Each will remain until Aug. 31. Managing director Mark White, director of finance David Hockley, director of legal Paul Chinnery and head of HR Natasha Adams are also leaving but will remain on board until Oct. 31 to help manage the changeover.

In the statement released today, the restructuring is cited as part of Northern & Shell’s attempt to return the station to profitability by investing £300 million (US$470 million) in the company annually for the next five years. Northern & Shell also maintained that if another company had bought Five, the staff cuts could have been much deeper, potentially affecting up to 80% of its workforce.

Of those remaining, Jeff Ford, most recently director of digital channels & acquisitions, will take on the role of program director, Five Channels. Kelly Williams, who has been director of sales for the last six years, continues to lead the commercial team.

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