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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
ITV's 28m programme boost
David Suchet
David Suchet stars in two "shelved" Hercule Poirot mysteries
The ITV network is to boost its programmes and regional services with investment worth 28 million.

The network, which has been hit by falling ratings and advertising revenue, aims to strengthen its regional TV output and support more drama and entertainment.


The additional investment will significantly enhance ITV1's schedule

ITV spokeswoman
There has also been concern about the network's regional coverage as the number of regional TV companies has dwindled through mergers and takeovers.

David Liddiment, ITV Director of Channels described the move as "good news for ITV1's viewers, programme makers and advertisers".

News of the extra investment comes amid reports that many ITV dramas have been kept on the shelf - to save money.

The Guardian newspaper's website has reported that ITV has accumulated at least 20m-worth of adaptations and period dramas over the last 18 months, including a series based on Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim and Thomas Hardy's The Mayor Of Casterbridge.

Kevin Whately
Plain Jane, starring Kevin Whately - originally set for spring 2001
It is not transmitting them so the full costs of the series do not appear in ITV accounts, according to the Guardian report.

The new investment announced by ITV on Monday accompanies scheduling changes.

The network's late night regional news bulletin will be brought forward, in a move the channel hopes will pull in more viewers.

Ratings

The late evening regional news bulletins will be shown at 2020, directly after the News at Ten - instead of after 2300.

The change will bring ITV news in line with the BBC, whose regional news programmes follow the 10 O'Clock News - and tend to attract higher ratings.

The new ITV investment is worth 25m in addition to the 750m already committed to programmes for 2002.

The regional initiative is worth a further 3m.

"The additional investment will significantly enhance ITV1's schedule for the second half of the year, with spending concentrated in areas of traditional strength for the channel such as high quality drama and entertainment," an ITV spokeswoman said.

Savings

ITV is under financial pressure due to a decline in advertising and the collapse of ITV Digital.

Monday's Guardian report said that the network has been able to show paper savings by keeping back drama output and broadcasting cheaper programmes instead.

The report said ITV's own accounting methods were responsible, as they only show the money invested in programming as being spent once a show has been transmitted.

Delayed series include Paula Milne's political thriller Thursday The Twelfth, The Mayor Of Casterbridge and Plain Jane - reportedly first set for broadcast in the first three months of 2001.

Plain Jane, a period drama starring Kevin Whately, is now being transmitted on ITV1 on Monday and Tuesday night.

The Guardian report added that Granada's Harold Shipman drama documentary is still awaiting a transmission slot, as are a version of children's classic Pollyanna, the fifth series of Trial and Retribution and two new Hercule Poirot mysteries starring David Suchet.

No-one from ITV was available to comment on the Guardian report.

See also:

27 May 02 | Business
24 May 02 | Business
20 May 02 | Entertainment
22 Apr 02 | Entertainment
15 Apr 02 | Entertainment
08 Dec 00 | Entertainment
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