- ITV's recent successes in improving its programme line-up and audience levels received an official stamp of approval this week as the Independent Television Commission praised the channel's revitalised service in its annual performance review for 1998.
The ITC said that past criticisms of ITV's limited range of programming in peak time had been answered with more factual programming and less reliance on drama.
Nevertheless, there was "high praise" for ITV's drama successes, while acquired material such as feature films were less successful in attracting audiences.
The ITC also noted that improvements were still required in the current affairs, comedy and arts genres. ITV's promised improvement in entertainment was only partly delivered and the Commission urged the channel to make further progress.
ITV's news coverage won plaudits, particularly the more serious agenda for the early evening news and a greater willingness to extend bulletins and provide news flashes for major events. However, the culture secretary, Chris Smith, is said to be poised to launch an attack on ITV for dumbing down its news coverage since moving News at Ten last month.
Responding to the ITC's report, ITV's chief executive, Richard Eyre, said: "The review is a very positive endorsement of the programme and schedule strategy the ITV Network has been pursuing. We remain committed to serving viewers with a diverse range of quality programmes."
Channel 4 was also praised by the ITC for showing some improvement. Drama and current affairs were singled out, while news was considered to be "serious, measured and high quality". The ITC did call for more multi-cultural programming in peak time and pointed out that the requirements for adult education were not met in full.
For Channel 5's first full year, the ITC saw some significant improvements. The channel met most of its licence commitments, news remained distinctive and educational programming improved. There was, however, insufficient original drama for adults and a shortfall in original commissions.
GMTV was deemed "attractive and generally high quality" by the Commission, with a more adult-oriented and consistent approach to the weekday service.