ITV foreign news post for Neely

Bill Neely has been assigned a new role as international news editor for ITV.

The appointment comes as former BBC correspondent Martin Bell criticised UK broadcasters’ coverage of foreign affairs.

Neely, who worked for ITN as Europe correspondent after five years at the Washington bureau, will have responsibility for adding analysis and context to international news stories on ITV news bulletins.

The new post is equal to that of political editor, the role held by John Sergeant.

The move comes as Bell claimed that ITN should be awarded "the Palme d’Or for the dumbing-down of British television".

Bell wrote in The Independent that early in the Nineties ITN began "to promote an agenda of crime, celebrity and miracle cures – and to downgrade foreign news to a couple of slots a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays".

Bell, who also criticised changes in the BBC’s presentation style, claimed ITV’s competitive edge was "blunted" for the first time in its history during the Afghan conflict as a result of securing a deal to supply ITV’s news "at almost fire-sale prices".

ITN fought off a rival bid from a Sky News-led consortium last year but saw its news budget fall from £45m to £36m.

Speculation that serious foreign news coverage would be the first casualty of the deal increased when former foreign editor Jim Buchanan was made redundant, and his job merged with that of managing editor.

Nigel Dacre, editor of ITV News, said Neely’s appointment "reflects the importance we attach to the analysis of major foreign stories".

by Julie Tomlin

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