Net's pursuit of primetime ad cash irks gov't

LONDON — The U.K.’s commercial TV regulator is escalating its battle over news with the ITV network by directing the web to shift its nightly bulletin to an earlier time.

Although the Independent Television Commission had previously ordered the change, new move makes it legally binding.

ITV must now either capitulate or ask for a judicial review. The ITC has never lost such a case.

At issue is a 14% drop in ITV’s news viewership after it axed its flagship “News at Ten” broadcast more than a year ago. The ITC maintains that this situation is unacceptable.

ITV now airs the news at 11 p.m., opening up the evening for entertainment, where the ad dollars are.

ITV may decide not to fight the ITC and perhaps elect to sked its news as early as 7:30. But the freeing of primetime has been crucial to turning around the network’s fortunes, so a court case may be inevitable.

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