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BBC wins news at 10 battle

'Ten O'Clock News' grabs 23% share

LONDON — The opening night of Blighty’s latest TV news war, which for the first time puts the BBC and ITV’s flagship news shows head-to-head, was won by the pubcaster.

ITV’s resurrected “News at Ten,” relaunched as part of a radical overhaul of ITV1’s schedule, gained 3.8 million viewers — a 18.4% share — while BBC1’s “Ten O’Clock News” was watched by 4.9 million, a 23.4% share, according to overnight ratings figures.

The corp., which led its show with a scoop from world affairs editor John Simpson who fronted an undercover report from Zimbabwe, played down their victory. BBC director general Mark Thompson, interviewed on BBC radio show “Today,” said: “If the result of this is that the total audience for news goes up, nobody will be happier than me.”

He added that the corp. remains “totally committed to news at regular times six nights week.”

In an attempt to improve the perf of ITV1, the web has brought back “News at Ten,” co-hosted by veteran U.K. anchor Trevor McDonald, four nights a week.

Axed in 1999 to make way for movies and 90-minute dramas, the return of the iconic news brand, which bowed in 1967, has been masterminded by ITV’s executive chairman Michael Grade, who arrived at the flagging network a year ago.

ITV’s director of TV Simon Shaps was upbeat about the audience figures, which peaked at 4.2 million viewers.

He said: “We are very pleased that the return of ‘News at Ten’ was watched by over four million viewers last night.

“This is an increase of over 1.5 million viewers on the average for the previous 10.30 p.m. ITV News bulletin and a marked improvement across the 10.00 p.m. slot.”