ITV and Five announce schedule plans for coming year

LONDON - ITV and Five have unveiled their statements of intent for the 2003 and 2004.

ITV, which is fighting against falling levels of advertising share, has committed itself to increased levels of quality drama and the development of top-rating concepts such as 'Pop Idol' and 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?'.

In its Statement of Programme Policy for 2003-4, the network detailed how it will spend its increased programme budget of £830m, up from £750mlast year. New drama will include part two of 'The Forsyte Saga', 'Henry VIII and his Wives' and 'The Second Coming'.

Entertainment programming will focus on updates of previously successful formats and a new programme, 'Reborn in the USA', which will put a group of UK singing stars from the past 30 years in front of American audiences, with viewers voting on how they perform. ITV is also investing in comedy, with two new sitcoms: 'Hardware', by the creator of 'Men Behaving Badly', and 'Hogwash'.

ITV, with its new director of programmes Nigel Pickard about to start in the role, admitted a key challenge was to improve its daytime schedule. A statement said: "It is a tough challenge denting the popularity of BBC1's daily diet of lifestyle strands, soaps and acquired drama; ITV1's approach is based on greater investment in original ideas and new presenting talent."

The rival broadcaster Five said it would focus on commissioning new documentary strands, including a six-hour series on World War I, for its 8pm slot and replace some of its weaker 9pm movie slots with documentary series. It will also invest more in current affairs coverage.

Five's new drama will include a major police series and two other, as yet unspecified, dramas.

Kevin Lygo, Five's director of programmes, said: "We will continue to deliver a distinctive and innovative schedule with quality programmes across the spectrum of genres. Our aim is to become a significant cultural force in people's lives, and to matter to them."

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