ITV in talks with rolling news channel over tie-in

A potential link-up between ITV and the ITN News Channel could provide a solid future for the 24-hour service.

Both ITN and the ITV Network declined to discuss the possibility of a tie-in between ITV and the rolling news channel, which ITN runs separately from its contract with ITV. Sources at the network confirmed that discussions on a union were ongoing.

The potential is there for the channel to be renamed ITV News Channel and be part of the group of channels under the ITV Digital banner.

"It would give ITV Digital some sort of public service remit," said an ITN insider.

A possible stumbling block would arise if any distribution deal is struck between ITV Digital and its rival BSkyB. The latter, which runs Sky News, would be unlikely to want any involvement with ITN’s 24-hour news operation.

Meanwhile, 35 journalists are set to be among the 90 jobs cuts lined up at ITN in its battles to reduce costs.

There are 10 journalist positions being axed from the ITV newsroom and 18 journalist posts going from ITN News Channel. A further seven positions go from the new media and money desks.

Also leaving is Bill Dunlop, head of the news channel, who has been at ITN for 13 years and worked on the news channel since its start-up.

Dunlop said his decision to leave was nothing to do with ITN’s current problems. "Working in 24-hour news for four years is very intensive," he said, adding, "I am very confident for the future of the news channel."

He will be replaced by his deputy, Dominic Crossley-Holland.

In another difficult week for ITN, the broadcaster faced a sideswipe from the BBC’s director of news and an official objection from staff unions inside ITN.

Richard Sambrook, the BBC’s director of news, told the Royal Television Society this week: "ITV moved and shortened News at Ten – and undermined the best TV news brand in this country. "They now seem to use evening news as a commodity to be shifted around the schedule." And delegates from ITN’s main unions meet next week with the ITC to discuss the changing face of ITV news. The unions are questioning whether ITN still meets the ITC’s legislation requirements for the status of the ITV news provider.

An aggressive rival bid, led by Sky News, for the ITV licence forced ITN to slash its own bid from £46m to £35m a year.

Paul McLaughlin, the NUJ’s broadcast officer said: "We just want to be sure that the ITC is satisfied that this is a sensible way to choose a news provider for ITV."

By Martin McNamara

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