Carlton and Granada freeze ITV1's budget at £835m

LONDON - Carlton and Granada have frozen ITV1's programming budget at £835m for the coming year, in a move that will thwart the channel's chances of competing seriously with BBC One.

BBC One overtook ITV1 in terms of audience share two years ago when the advertising downturn, coupled with huge losses at defunct digital broadcaster ITV Digital, got the better of the commercial network.

The channel appeared to be attempting to reverse its decline last year when its budget was bolstered by £100m, in an attempt to begin catching up BBC One's £1bn programming spend. But the continuing advertising recession means the budget will not be increased again this year.

News of the budget freeze was announced by Nigel Pickard, the channel's recently installed director of programmes, when he revealed the channel's new autumn schedule at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Sunday.

He denied the freeze would significantly hurt ITV's performance and introduced two new daytime quiz shows alongside a raft of dramas.

The first quiz show, called 'I'm the Answer', sees contestants have to guess the correct question to an answer. The second is a 'Big Brother'-style quiz show called '24 Hour Quiz', which sees contestants locked in a house day and night and bombarded with questions until, one by one, the least successful gets evicted.

Pickard announced a series of new dramas, including 'Boudicea', featuring 'ER''s Alex Kingston, and 'Henry VIII', starring Ray Winstone, Helena Bonham-Carter and Emilia Fox. He also vowed to sort out ITV's evening news bulletin in the next six months. He called the current system of showing it at 10pm on three or four nights of the week "untenable".

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