MEDIA: PERSPECTIVE - ITC could be left in the cold following News at Ten move

I am mystified by the longstanding row over whether ITV should reinstate News at Ten or not. If you look at the huge wealth of news offerings from terrestrial to multichannel TV, you could hardly say that we are suffering from a dearth of news. And we are soon to see the provision of yet another 24-hour news channel - this time in the digital TV environment with ITN’s joint venture with the cable operator NTL.

I am mystified by the longstanding row over whether ITV should

reinstate News at Ten or not. If you look at the huge wealth of news

offerings from terrestrial to multichannel TV, you could hardly say that

we are suffering from a dearth of news. And we are soon to see the

provision of yet another 24-hour news channel - this time in the digital

TV environment with ITN’s joint venture with the cable operator NTL.



But, more importantly, why should the Government and the Independent

Television Commission dictate where ITV schedules its news when the

channel is battling against a myriad of alternative entertainment

sources? And when such specific controls are forced on a commercial TV

channel, it throws up all sorts of questions about what moral right

these bodies have over controlling when and what the viewer should see,

particularly when the programme in question is the news.



Of course, it was no great surprise when the ITC told ITV that it was

unhappy with its plans to bolster News at Ten with pounds 20 million

investment in new programming during the peaktime slot before the news

at 11pm. After all, the TV watchdog has no easy options - whatever

decision it makes will cause consternation. On the one hand, you have a

Government which is beginning to gear up for an election and is all too

aware of the importance of the ten o’clock slot as a valuable manifesto

tool. On the other, you have a TV network which is trying to manage

natural audience decline.



If you add the fact that the Government is looking at the possibility of

abolishing the ITC and creating a single over-arching regulator across

the media and telecoms sectors, you can see why the ITC is even more

uncomfortable in going against Labour’s wishes.



With less than two weeks to come up with a clincher which will sweep

away any possible remonstrations over not reinstating News at Ten or

rescheduling it to 10.30pm, I will be interested to see what miracles

ITV will work.



And if the final recommendations are rejected, it will be a real test of

the ITC’s powers to see how it decides to proceed - through revoking its

original decision to allow the move or going to the High Court, which

would dangerously throw a spotlight on the ITC’s authority.



Bickering over where ITV should slot its news seems to pale into

insignificance, though, when speculation about future consolidation

within ITV’s ownership gathers pace. For ITV’s key players - Granada,

Carlton and United News & Media - it is also probably an unwanted

distraction while they mull over the best strategy to ensure their

future dominance. It is also a dangerous irritant to a Government from

which they are keen to elicit a favourable response in terms of relaxing

TV ownership regulations.



anna.griffiths@haynet.com.



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).