Calls for Ofcom to force ITV into peaktime news slot

Media regulator Ofcom is facing demands from MPs to reinstate ITV’s late-evening news programme to a peaktime slot.

The all-party media select committee has backed journalists’ concerns that the merged ITV is downgrading its news coverage.

The committee, headed by Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, has told Media Secretary Tessa Jowell that it deplored Ofcom’s endorsement of the decision to screen the bulletin at 10.30pm.

Now the committee has urged the regulator to rectify what it considers was a mistake when it approves the re-licensing of ITV services.

MPs were unhappy at the axeing of the News at Ten bulletin. The decision to provide a 10.30pm slot was agreed by the Independent Television Commission ( the previous regulator) just before it handed over powers to Ofcom.

But the MPs said: “We deplore Ofcom’s endorsement of the ITC decision to allow a downgrading of the news service offered by ITV during peaktime, and urge it to reconsider its position on the issue during the forthcoming licensing of Channel 3 services.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear, giving evidence to the committee, complained about advertiser influence on ITV which has led to a reduction of regional and political programmes as well as news during peaktime. “Only 2.6 per cent of peaktime viewing of the ITV network is now on news and current affairs,” Dear told MPs.

The committee said: “A merged and more powerful ITV shows little interest in maintaining news coverage beyond the bare minimum imposed by legislation and laxly interpreted by the ITC and Ofcom.”

“With half the population still relying on analogue services, Ofcom should seek to reinstate on Channel 3 two substantial news bulletins within peak time – 6pm to 10.30pm.”

By David Rose

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