ITV Central was unable yesterday to assure its Midland staff about job security following a proposed shake-up of regional newsrooms.

The broadcaster is planning to cut the number of regional operations from 17 to nine.

It will mean the West Midlands news programme Central Tonight, hosted by Bob Warman and Joanne Malin, will merge with its East Midlands counterpart.

ITV's chairman Michael Grade believes the cost of running so many newsrooms is more than it can "commercially justify" and hopes to save up to £40 million a year from streamlining.

The measures will ultimately have to be approved by television regulator Ofcom which is conducting a year-long review into public services broadcasting.

Last night Ian Squires, managing director of ITV Central, said: "The important thing to emphasise is the new service, which will be for the whole of the Midlands, will be a brand new programme.

"We are saying to staff don't assume anything about the sort of jobs and numbers of jobs.

"We will get to all of that when the time comes. Then we will make decisions about where the journalists and crew will be based."

Mr Squires said he had stressed upon staff the need to adapt the service to meet new realities. "I spoke to them and what I emphasised is we are in a changing world.

"ITV is changing its view of what it wants to be. It means a change in priority.

"Michael Grade has said regional news is still an important part of ITV but it has to be at a price.

"That is a consequence of the commercial reality we live in. What I am saying to staff here and across the region is that at the end of it what we will have is a very sustainable news programme that will go on past the point of digital switchover and we believe will be in a strong enough condition to go well beyond that."

In 2004 the broadcaster announced the loss of up to 400 jobs at Central East and Central West, including the closure of Central East's studios in Nottingham and transfer of remaining staff to Birmingham.

Currently about 150 people work at Central West on Gas Street, off Broad Street, and about 40 at Central East which also broadcasts from Birmingham.

Under the proposed merger it is envisaged there will be a single news programme containing sections that relate specifically to the west and east of the region. Mr Squires added: "The guarantees make it very clear that in doing this we will make sure these programmes are properly resourced and properly staffed."