Counties such as Herefordshire could lose out from merger of ITV Central West and East, an expert has said.

Bob Calver, senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at Birmingham City University, added the change could also reduce job opportunities for broadcast journalists in the region.

His comments came after ITV announced plans to merge Central East and West for daytime and weekend bulletins and for the majority of its 6pm flagship programme.

The merger follows a string of cutbacks at ITV Central. In 2004 the business announced 400 jobs would be shed across its Birmingham and Nottingham operations.

Mr Calver, who spent 18 years as a BBC journalist, said: "The merger will mean a reduction in service insomuch as ITV Central Tonight clearly won't have a programme entirely dedicated to the West Midlands in way we've been used to.

"It will be particularly bad for areas on the extremes of the West Midlands, such has Herefordshire, which will get less coverage as the programme stretches to cover areas such as Nottingham and Derby. But, given increasing costs, it makes sense for ITV to do it from an economic perspective."

But, he added, it was disappointing for audiences at a time when the Government was considering providing measures for people to get more involved in local affairs.

He said: "It seems strange that in the same week that draft legislation is announced that plans to give people more say on what local authorities are doing, a television broadcaster announces measures that will make it harder for people to get local news about what those in power are doing."

Mr Calver added that the he was concerned the ITV announcement offered another risk to broadcast journalism jobs in the region, which were already threatened.