ITN lands £20m Channel 4 News contract

News recent special with PMC

ITN has signed a £20m deal to supply Channel 4 with news until 2007.

The five-year deal, which replaces the current contract due to run until next year, was revealed shortly after Channel 4 announced job losses as part of its cost-cutting strategy.

But in line with chief executive Mark Thompson’s description of Channel 4 News as the jewel in the broadcaster’s crown, it has maintained the same level of investment as its previous contract with ITN.

In contrast to last year’s £36m contract to supply ITV’s bulletins, the Channel 4 deal was agreed without other parties being invited to bid. It was described by main anchor Jon Snow as "pretty amazing given the forces that are against us".

"No one is investing in news and the channel doesn’t have that much money," he said. "I hate to have to say it, but Channel 4 has put more money into this product than ITV has into its news. There is only one programme a night and we have more than half the money that goes into ITV’s news with its endless outlets."  ITN welcomed the deal after a period of cost-cutting and job losses – it had to cut £12m from its budget to retain the ITV contract. ITN executives were also celebrating putting paid to Sky News’s hopes of gaining an immediate foothold in terrestrial TV.

On top of the Channel 4 deal and the six-year ITV contract, which runs from 2003, ITN has also signed a deal with Channel 5 to supply its news until 2006.

Channel 4 News has been on air since the channel’s launch 20 years ago. It has since added Saturday and Sunday bulletins and attracts audiences of around one million.

It has gained respect in the industry for its "broadsheet" agenda and innovative approach to news.

An entire edition of the programme  was recently devoted to an interview with the Prime Minister. Next month, Snow will present the programme from Delhi for a week to mark the start of the Test series between England and India.

Editor Jim Gray said there were plans for more projects of this kind and for specials and longer programmes, which would be commissioned by Channel 4 separately.

"This is an absolutely fantastic deal for us and it’s a tribute to a team which I think is the best in the business," said Gray. "There are no plans to reinvent the programme, but we want to carry on being innovative and challenging with what is a hybrid news and current affairs programme."

By Julie Tomlin

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