MEDIA TRACK: ITV’s schedule changes have sent regional news audiences into freefall

This week, ITV will hand over a set of proposals to the Independent Television Commission outlining a strategy to increase the audience for its news output.

This week, ITV will hand over a set of proposals to the Independent

Television Commission outlining a strategy to increase the audience for

its news output.



Of particular concern to the ITC are the falling viewing figures for

ITV’s regional news bulletins. The commission’s research reveals

audiences for local news programmes in the first nine weeks in 2000 have

dropped by 16.4 per cent year on year.



Analysis of ITV’s news audiences was prompted by changes to the evening

schedule. These alterations, which included the controversial demise of

News at Ten, were permitted by the ITC and went into effect in March

1999.



A number of regional bulletins have been moved forward in the schedule

as a result of the changes. It is these programmes that have been

affected by the most dramatic fall in audience figures. North East

Tonight, for example, was previously broadcast between 6pm and 7pm but

is now scheduled in the 5.30pm to 6.30pm slot. So far, its audience has

dropped from 342,000 to 228,000 viewers. Granada Tonight, which

experienced the same schedule shift, saw viewing fall by 24.1 per cent

to 512,000.



Those regional bulletins that have not been rescheduled are also

experiencing falling audiences but the decline is less severe.



ITV Evening News, broadcast from 6.30pm to 7pm, is now ITV’s main news

programme. However, its average audience size between April 1999 and

February 2000 was 6.1 per cent lower than the average 5.7 million

viewers attained by News At Ten across the same period last year.



Furthermore, ITV’s prime objective of attracting more viewers to its

peak-time drama and film output is not being achieved according to Barb

ratings. Year on year for February 1999 to April 2000, the weekday 8pm

to 11pm average network ratings have grown by just 0.1 per cent, from

13.3 per cent to 13.4 per cent.





MediaTel’s database is available at www.mediatel.co.uk. For more

information contact 020-7439 7575 or e-mail info@mediatel.co.uk.



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