LONDON: A showman down to his trademark cigar and red braces, ITV executive chairman Michael Grade (pictured) on Thursday revealed a "very sensitive commercial secret" to an industry talkfest

Addressing the MediaGuardian Changing Broadcast conference, Grade used the occasion to hype allegedly "secret" plans to relaunch the broadcaster's flagging flagship ITV1 channel.

"We have been planning for a year to relaunch ITV1's schedule next year," he told a venue packed with unraised eyebrows, most of whom thought it inevitable and overdue. "We have been desperately trying to keep this a secret, but hopelessly."

The relaunch is timed for early next year, and will coincide with the resuscitation of the channel's one-time late evening ratings winner News at Ten.

Aware, perhaps that his audience might think the disinterment of a once-popular news programme to be a retrograde step, Grade was on the defensive.

He denied allegations that the move was a sop to regulators, and an attempt to gain a PR advantage. Such assertions left him "bereft", he said.

News at Ten, he argued, had been the lynchpin of ITV1 scheduling and its move in 1999 to earlier, then later, slots a mistake.

"What is ITV so proud of in the last couple of years since the ITV news moved?" he asked rhetorically. "Can anyone name me one 10 o'clock show in midweek that we are so proud of over the last seven years?

"It makes commercial sense for us to do it. It makes every kind of sense for us when you see the 2008 schedule and how it fits in.

"You don't move one piece without everything falling apart. This is part of a huge strategic rethink to streamline the ITV schedule. It is part of a much bigger move."

To the disappointment of his audience - mainly from the ad and media industries - details of the "huge strategic rethink," were not forthcoming.

However, ITV director of television Simon Shaps revealed that a key feature of the relaunch would be new programmes, among which sixty-minute dramas would figure prominently.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff