ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 published their first formal programme statements this week, setting out plans for the coming year.
The new-style ‘contracts’ are a fore-runner of the self-regulation expected when the communications white paper reaches the statute books in 2003.
The performance of each of the broadcasters against their statements of programme policy will be assessed by the ITC throughout the coming year.
"By introducing this new form of accountability and increased self-regulation now, before the new legislation is in place, the ITC is providing government, the public and broadcasters with an opportunity to test the effectiveness of the proposed system of self-regulation," said ITC chief executive Patricia Hodgson.
She added: "We are delighted that the broadcasters have risen to the challenge."
ITV said it would extend its News at Ten to 30 minutes and include its regional bulletin in its General Election coverage. The Lunchtime News will also include a regional bulletin with reports on the latest political developments.
ITV is planning "its most ambitious election night programme to date", its statement said.
Live results from 80 key constituencies and analysis will be supplied by ITN political editor John Sergeant and Dermot Murnaghan, presenter of ITV’s Evening News.
The programme will be hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby and Murnaghan’s co-presenter Mary Nightingale, the former presenter on Wish You Were Here.
As part of its commitment to news and current affairs, Channel 4 also plans to boost its business coverage.
Channel 4’s intention to expand its business news echoes that of the BBC, which this month launched a daily business news programme on News 24 and recently appointed Jeff Randall as its business editor.
by Julie Tomlin