ITV admits audience pledge is dependent on dropping News at Ten

- ITV won't meet its audience targets unless it is allowed to move News At Ten from its current slot, ITV's chief executive, Richard Eyre, said this week.

- ITV won't meet its audience targets unless it is allowed to move News At Ten from its current slot, ITV's chief executive, Richard Eyre, said this week.

Speaking at a Royal Television Society dinner on Tuesday, Eyre told guests that if the Independent Television Commission rejected the proposal to move the flagship bulletin to 6.30, ITV would find it impossible to achieve its audience potential.

Back in January, Eyre took the radical step of revealing ITV's audience targets to the advertising community in a bid to make the network more accountable. He pledged to take ITV's share of peak-time audiences up to 40 per cent by the year 2000.

It emerged this week, however, that these targets were based on ITV being able to maximise audiences in the 10pm slot currently occupied by News At Ten.

Eyre also told RTS guests that the decision to move the news bulletin should not be influenced by politicians, many of whom have voiced firm opposition to the proposal. "We can't have politicians telling us where to put TV programmes," Eyre insisted.

But Eyre made it clear that the call to move News At Ten would not set a trend in trying to unpick programming commitments made by the ITV stations in their licence applications. The regional flavour of ITV, for example, was an asset to the channel that should be protected by continued investment in local programming and news.

On the eve of the launch of Sky Digital, Eyre also talked about the future for ITV in the digital age, with hundreds of channels vying for viewers' attention, and cautioned against seeing digital as a panacea for advertisers.

"The arrival of hundreds of new channels is not progress for the advertising community," Eyre said. "The shared viewing experience is a hugely valuable marketing tool."



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