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ITV backpedals on pricey ‘India’

Sally Hawkins was to have starred in drama

Cash-strapped British web ITV has canceled its pricey two-part adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel “A Passage to India” as advertising revenues continue to fall.

ITV was in negotiations to cast Matthew Macfadyen and Sally Hawkins in the upscale drama, which was to be directed by Adrian Shergold.

Lensing on the inhouse production was due to start next month on location in India, with broadcast set for the fall.

ITV is reported to have paid £225,000 ($347,000) for the rights to the novel, more than three times the sum offered by the BBC, and to have spent several hundred thousand dollars on pre-production costs, including location-hunting trips to India.

“We are working hard to make sure that we extract maximum value from the schedule and spend money carefully and, as a result, we will not be taking forward the commission of ‘A Passage to India,’” an ITV spokesman said. “We remain committed to high-quality drama on ITV1 and in 2009 have ‘Demons,’ ‘Law and Order: UK,’ ‘Wuthering Heights,’ ‘Whitechapel’ and the return of ‘Primeval’ coming to screen.”

Zenith Optimedia’s U.K. TV Forecasts to 2012 report estimates that ITV’s net advertising revenue for 2008 will be $1.86 billion, down 8.4% on the previous year, with next year’s figure estimated at $1.72 billion, down 7.8% on 2008.

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