Move could pit b'cast against rival BBC next year
LONDON — After more than a year of wrangling and threats of legal action, U.K. broadcaster ITV has given in to pressure from the Independent Television Commission to move its nightly news bulletin back to 10 p.m.
Newscast was shifted to 11 p.m. last year to free up space for primetime programs on the commercial network, but the ITC objected that ITV was neglecting its public service obligations with the move, which led to a 14% drop in its news viewership.
Return of the bulletin to its original slot could place it head-to-head with the BBC, which intends to shift “The Nine O’Clock News” to 10 p.m. toward the end of next year. The Beeb says it will not change its plans.
But many wonder whether the BBC ought to schedule its news concurrently with its commercial rival. An ITV spokesman said, “The BBC would be doing the public a disservice by giving them two bulletins at the same time rather than offering them a choice at two different times.”
The ITC will now allow ITV’s news to be scheduled later on Friday nights and will also give the channel flexibility on other weeknights so that feature-length programming and live sports can air uninterrupted.
Modifications have also been made to advertising rules, so that ITV can sell an additional 2.5 minutes of commercials in primetime.