21 July 2000

Britain's commercial television regulator, the Independent Television Commission, said yesterday that it will issue a "legally binding" directive to the ITV consortium to move its late evening (2300 BST) flagship news bulletin to an earlier hour.

From the inception of UK commercial television in the 1950s, ITV’s main evening news slot, branded News at Ten, was broadcast nationwide at 2200 BST. Last year, however, ITV axed News at Ten amid much public and political controversy in favour of a new slot – the 11 O'clock Nightly News – allowing, claimed ITV, greater flexibility for scheduling films and evening dramas.

The move adversely affected audience ratings both for the revised news slot and its earlier (1800 BST) sibling. Nor was it popular with advertisers, 54% of whom believe the decision to axe the 10pm slot was a mistake, according to a survey by Media Audits [WAMN, 8-Jun-00].

The ITC accordingly ‘requested’ ITV to move the slot back to an earlier time, a call so far ignored by the consortium – now “considering its position pending receipt of the full text of the direction which is expected next week”.

The ITC’s latest move is apparently its final call before taking legal action. Under the requirements of the Broadcasting Act, TV channels must screen high quality news programmes to mass audiences.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)