ITN: Public funding will safeguard news broadcaster's future

ITN has made a bid for public funding to guarantee the future of regional news broadcasting.

Chief executive Mark Wood (pictured) told the media select committee that it should consider pressing the Government to commission an inquiry.

Media regulator Ofcom has voiced concerns that regional news could be cut back following the switchover to digital television, while there are fears that Channel 4 News could be in jeopardy without public funding.

The Government has already promised an inquiry at some future date, to examine the case for extending public funding to broadcasters other than the BBC, which has just been awarded a renewed licence fee.

But giving evidence to the cross-party media committee, Wood said: "We do not consider this should wait until switchover, as the Government proposed during the BBC Charter review, but should be started now."

He added: "Even if national news services remain (and the signs are that the commercial public service broadcasters are very committed to these) Ofcom has signalled that regional news may not be commercially viable for ITV post switchover."

Wood told the MPs that ITV had some concerns about its ability to main its regional news. "These are legitimate areas of discussion, about where the funding will come from. High quality broadcasting news is costly. We have very high standards set by the BBC."

Wood said that under its new chairman Sir Michael Grade, ITV had demonstrated its commitment to news by agreeing to a new six-year contract with ITN.

But he said Channel 4 News would struggle without public funding.

He also called for the new BBC Trust to examine plans by the BBC to expand into the mobile phone market by offering a package of channels, including 24-hour news, to mobile phone users.

ITN has already developed its own plans and Wood said: "The sudden availability of a lot of content cost-free could destroy a market."

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