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The BBC's Greg Wood
"The ITC has set itself on a collision course with ITV"
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Thursday, 20 July, 2000, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
ITV ordered to move news
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Audiences fell after the News at Ten was axed
The Independent Television Commission is stepping up its pressure on ITV to move its nightly 2300 BST news to an earlier time.

The television regulator has said it will issue a "legally binding" direction to ITV to force the network to bring the bulletin forward, if it does not return to the News at Ten.

The ongoing row over the demise of News at Ten could end up with independent broadcasters facing court action.

ITV licensees had been asked to move the slot to revive flagging viewer numbers since the axing of News at Ten more than a year ago.

But commission chiefs meeting on Thursday decided ITV proposals were not satisfactory and planned to draw up a document ordering the move.

Ratings hit

Their latest announcement is stronger than the "request" last month.

So far the company has refused and now has the opportunity to call for a judicial review of the issue.

ITV newsreaders
ITV's main bulletin was given an earlier slot
After the announcement on Thursday, ITV told BBC News Online it was considering its position pending receipt of the full text of the direction which is expected next week.

Scrapping News at Ten and creating the 11 O'clock Nightly News created time for films and evening dramas, but hit viewer ratings for ITN's bulletins.

The number of people watching ITV news has plummeted by one million, 14% of the audience, since News at Ten was scrapped.

Traditional bulletins

The network said the change was designed to halt the long-term decline in its peaktime audience and increase the range and diversity of the evening schedule.

There are now more documentaries, current affairs and sports programmes in peaktime, it said.

Other changes at both ends of the evening have also affected regional news audience numbers.

Despite the wide availability of news on 24-hour specialist channels, the internet and even mobile phones, the ITC believes that the traditional bulletins are still hugely important.

The role of the ITC has been complicated with the recent explosion in the number of digital channels, few of which are ever told when and what they can schedule.

The ITC became involved with ITV's decision because free-to-air TV channels are required under the Broadcasting Act to screen high quality news programmes to mass audiences.

It had to give ITV permission to drop News at Ten but said the decision would be reviewed.

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See also:

22 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Bring back News at Ten say MPs
10 May 00 | Entertainment
Programmes for the people
18 May 00 | UK
News at Ten: Why the fuss?
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