LEADING politicians and media figures have expressed their disappointment over the scrapping of plans to overhaul TV news in Wales.

New UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt announced yesterday (Tuesday, June 8) that a project to replace ITV regional news will not now go ahead.

The Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) pilots were intended by the Labour government to replace the ITV service in three areas of the UK.

Wales Live, the preferred bidder for Wales, was a joint venture between NWN Media - publisher of the Leader - and Northern Ireland TV company UTV.

It proposed to create a dynamic cross-platform news force, delivering content for television, radio, newspaper and online services for the whole of Wales.

Wales Live was chosen to run the pilot by the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DMCS) in March and was expected to get under way later this year.

Shadow Welsh secretary Peter Hain described the decision to scrap the pilot as "bitterly disappointing".

He said Wales Live was "an exciting and innovative concept" that would have safeguarded hundreds of Welsh jobs and offered viewers a greater choice of TV news.

He said: "A lot of people had put a lot of work into getting it this far and it's bitterly disappointing that the new government has pulled the plug at this late stage."

The Welsh Assembly Government also said it was disappointed by the move.

Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said: "Even at this late stage in the process, I would urge the UK Government to consider whether it would be possible to retain certain aspects of the IFNC proposals to ensure that we have a plurality of sustainable news services to meet the democratic needs of Wales."

David Faulkner, Managing Director of NWN Media, said: “The concept of the Independently Funded News Consortia offered a real way forward in boosting news provision on channel three and multi-platform coverage across the whole of Wales.

"Wales Live saw this as an unrivalled opportunity to change the landscape of news provision in Wales where there is an urgent need for that change.

"We are disappointed with the statement that the news pilots will not proceed.”

Michael Wilson, Managing Director of UTV, said: “Given the Conservative Party position on IFNCs we are not surprised by the decision and look forward to working with the new Secretary of State and the DCMS on new ways to deliver regional news which will be both high quality and sustainable.

“It was a fantastic achievement to win the IFNC project for Wales given the tough competition we were up against. "