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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
News bulletin clash condemned
Nine O'Clock News
The BBC's 9pm bulletin is due to be moved to 10pm
The UK Government has called on the BBC to rethink its proposal to move the Nine O'Clock News, after ITV restored its 10pm bulletin at least three nights a week.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith said it "would not make sense" for the two networks' main evening bulletins to clash.


We've lost something like 1.3m viewers to news and in a democracy that's very bad news.

Chris Smith
In August, the BBC's Director General, Greg Dyke, announced that the corporation's main nightly bulletin would be put back an hour to take advantage of the vacated 10pm slot.

But ITV has been under pressure from the television regulator, the ITC, to rearrange its news output since axing News At Ten in March 1999.

Mr Smith welcomed the independent network's decision to bring back its 10pm bulletin as "a step in the right direction" adding, however, that a slot five days a week would be preferable.

Conflict

"Over the course of the last year - with the shift in News At Ten - we've lost something like 1.3m viewers to news and in a democracy that's very bad news.

"What I hope is that we'll see at least some of that audience coming back to news on ITV," he told BBC News 24.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith: "Head to head conflict doesn't make sense"
Commenting on the proposal to move the Nine O'Clock News, Mr Smith said: "I hope that the BBC will now have a think about that because having head to head conflict between the main news bulletin on the BBC and on ITV - I don't think would make sense."

But a BBC spokesman said the corporation stood by its proposals.

"We announced our plans for the evening news in August and we don't see any reason to change those plans.

"We are committed to nightly news every week night, but the ITV plans will be confusing for viewers," he said.

ITV challenge

ITV's move will form part of a package of measures to be introduced in the New Year.

The late regional news will stay at 11.20pm, and the 10pm ITV Nightly News will be extended from 20 to 30 minutes during the general election. The 6.30pm bulletin is unchanged.

ITN chief executive Stewart Purvis said the latest changes represented a good settlement.

"It gives ITV the flexibility it requires, but it gets back its 10 o'clock slot. The challenge now is to the BBC, as to what they are going to do next."

The independent network initially refused to move the news slot but was then ordered to do so by the ITC.

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See also:

21 Sep 00 | UK
ITV News At Ten returns
01 Aug 00 | UK
ITN joins all-news battle
20 Jul 00 | UK
ITV ordered to move news
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