ITV Awards News Contract to Own Subsidiary in Preference to Sky-backed Rival

27 September 2001

Britain’s ITV Network announced Wednesday it had effectively re-awarded the contract for its national news service to ITN (Independent Television News) – its own subsidiary and incumbent provider of News at Ten and other daily bulletins since ITV’s launch in 1995. The decision will surprise few observers of the UK media scene.

The board of ITV, dominated by its two major shareholders Granada Media and Carlton Communications – decided to set aside the bid from ITN’s sole challenger, Channel Three News, and enter into a period of exclusive negotiation with ITN for supply of News at Ten and other bulletins. According to MediaGuardian, this equates to a done deal.

ITN’s forty-six years of hegemony have gone unchallenged until this year when the gauntlet was thrown down by Channel Three News, a consortium led by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB along with US news providers CBS and Bloomberg.

It is not yet certain whether the consortium will take its defeat lying down. Currently, Channel 3 chairman Richard Huntingford, is playing it cool, saying only that C3 is “naturally disappointed” at the decision but is “unlikely” to mount a legal challenge.

Nor it seems will the consortium launch any appeal on competition grounds via the Office of Fair Trading. According to a C3 insider: “We will probably bite the bullet and move on to the next thing, rather than waste money on a legal battle.”

It does, however, want to see the closed doors unbolted with an open comparison of the two bids – although this will not happen until after the formal decision has been announced.

Says Huntingford: “We remain ready to talk further to ITV about our proposal whenever they wish. We will, of course, look closely at ITV's reasons for choosing ITN's proposal as a basis for further negotiation. In the meantime we will continue to observe confidentiality clauses in relation to our proposal and so we will be saying nothing more.”

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