Budget cuts hit depth and range of ITV News

The slashing of ITN’s budget to deliver ITV News had a negative impact on the bulletin, preventing it from being on an equal footing with competitors, the Independent Television Commission has said.

In its report published on 23 December, a week before Ofcom took over as broadcast regulator, the ITC said ITV’s “new and leaner contract with ITN makes it more difficult for them always to compare in-depth with their competitors”.

It also criticised ITV’s current affairs output as being too reliant on “health and lifestyle issues” while virtually ignoring international themes.

“Apart from its annual John Pilger special, ITV depended largely on Tonight with Trevor McDonald and the reliable Jonathan Dimbleby. The former certainly attracted significant audiences (often three to four million) to current affairs and achieved several coups, though the range was compromised by too high a concentration on health and lifestyle issues, and with little attempt to look beyond our shores,” the ITC said.

However, it added that ITV’s news programmes “seemed more confident and assured, especially on consumer and health issues, and in tune with their market”, during the past year.

The report also praised Channel 4 News for having “retained its reputation for analytical coverage”, but rebuked the channel for making some programmes more “reactive” than usual.

“Five News benefited from pooled reports provided by stations with larger budgets, and its coverage was characteristically accessible, while Sky News provided unmatched rolling coverage,” the ITC said.

The ITC called Channel 4 “the mainstay of current affairs on the commercial channels” and singled out Unreported World and Dispatches as having contributed to its remit for international coverage. But it charged Channel 4 with only having “partially realised” its remit for multicultural programming.

By Wale Azeez

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