Your Westcountry news from Bristol
MUCH-LOVED faces will be disappearing from Westcountry television screens in the shake-up of regional news programmes.
Presenters such as Richard Bath and Alexis Bowater, who have anchored the region's television news for several years, have been axed under the new regime.
Lisa Aziz and Steve Scott will anchor The West Country Tonight from Bristol, covering 7 counties
The ITV Westcountry headquarters in Plymouth will close down next month as the operation merges with ITV West in Bristol.
Staff are said to be under massive pressure as the station goes into its dying days. With reduced numbers, it is understood an untrained employee has had to read the news on one occasion.
From February 16 there will be one regional news programme, The West Country Tonight, covering seven counties in the West of England. Included in the programme will be 15 minutes dedicated to what is now the ITV Westcountry patch.
Current ITV Westcountry presenters Mr Bath and Ms Bowater are being made redundant and the new programme will be presented by Lisa Aziz and Steve Scott.
Other popular faces such as Jemma Woodman and Julie Fisher will also be disappearing from the news.
An internal message sent to staff at ITV Westcountry from the head of news, Liz Hannam, reveals the "exceptionally challenging" conditions for station workers.
An extract from the memo reads: "The redundancies, high levels of sickness and stretched resources, combined with the wider economic gloom, have put many colleagues under considerable pressure.
"I realise this has been an exceptionally challenging time for staff, especially those who won't be staying with the new service."
It is understood staff are being pushed to the limit to meet production deadlines as those who will be working on the new programme are often on training courses or other preparation work.
These shortages are thought to have led to a woman who works as a news assistant reading out the local news for Plymouth and Truro earlier this month despite having no training as a television presenter.
A spokesman for ITV said the restructuring will allow the firm to continue to provide a high-quality service. He said: "There will be familiar faces reporting on news and we will be running bureaus across the region.
"We will very much have the resources to cover news wherever it is in the region and we've invested in new technology that allows us to report live from news events."
The spokesman stressed that within every programme there will be 15 minutes of news from what is now the ITV Westcountry region.
Regarding the untrained employee reading the news, the spokesman said: "Due to staff illness, in exceptional circumstances another member of staff was used to read out a short part of a bulletin."