Commercial TV network ITV is preparing to kick off the bidding battle for its news franchise when the current licence runs out at the end of next year.

The present holder of the contract since 1955 – worth around £40 million annually – is ITN. However, for the first time it is faced with a serious opponent, Channel Three News, a consortium comprising BSkyB, Bloomberg, CBS, Ulster TV and Chrysalis Group (each with a 20% stake).

ITV intends to get the process under way next week, sending out a tender document which will set a deadline for bids approximately six weeks later. However, it is unlikely that other bidders will emerge so late in the day, as they would first have to win the status of ‘nominated news provider’ from the Independent Television Commission. Channel Three was awarded this title last month [WAMN: 22-May-01].

Following the bid deadline, negotiations will continue for about a month, with a final decision slated for the autumn.

However, many observers of a cynical nature are already tipping ITN to hold on to the contract – Granada Media and Carlton Communications, which between them hold a 90% stake in ITV, also own around 40% of ITN.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)