ITV has boosted its advertising revenue by up to pounds 70 million
since axing News at Ten, despite losing two million viewers from its
nightly news programmes.
The figures were revealed by Leslie Hill, chairman of the ITV Network,
when he was questioned by MPs on the Commons Select Committee on
Culture, Media and Sport. The committee, which has launched an inquiry
into the scrapping of News at Ten, is expected to express concern that
ITV is putting ad revenues before viewers.
Although the prime minister, Tony Blair, has urged the Independent
Television Commission to restore News at Ten (Campaign, last week), the
ITC’s chairman, Sir Robin Biggam, hinted to MPs that the extra income
generated might weigh more heavily with the commission than viewing
figures when it reviews ITV’s decision in May.
Hill urged the commission to allow the new evening schedules to ’bed
down’ for three years before ordering ITV to restore News at Ten. He
added that ITV ad revenues had risen by pounds 100 million in the past
year following its shake-up of peak-time weekday programmes and
estimated that between pounds 50 million and pounds 70 million of this
was because the 10pm bulletin was moved to 11pm.
Gerald Kaufman, the committee’s Labour chairman, said the latest viewing
figures showed that the combined audience for the 6.30pm and 11pm
bulletins was 9.4 million, compared with 11.4 million for the old 5.40pm
and 10pm news programmes.