ITV relegates rolling news to daytime digital slot

By Caitlin Pike

In
the year that ITV News has had some of the top broadcast scoops, bosses
have decided to reel back its multimillion pound rolling news channel.

The
ITV News Channel, fronted by Alastair Stewart, will now broadcast for
only 12 hours a day on Freeview, from 6am until 6pm – in the downtime
of new entertainment channel ITV4.

The broadcaster, which
currently has only five slots on the free-to-view digital platform, had
to decide between lads channel Men and Motors – which breaks even and
is predicted to make a profit in 2006 – and the loss-making news
channel in order to make room for ITV4, which launched on Tuesday.

The ITV News Channel will remain a 24-hour channel on cable and satellite.

A
spokeswoman for ITV said: “The decision to cut the channel on Freeview
was a very difficult one, which we were forced to make. It in no way
signals a lack of commitment to the news channel.”

She stressed
that ITV was forced to decide between the two channels because it has
limited space on Freeview. She added that if more channels became
available on Freeview in the future, ITV would be likely to bid for
them and review the news channel’s standing.

Five head of news
and current affairs Chris Shaw said: “It is a shame that at a time when
Sky and the BBC are ramping up commitment to rolling news, ITV seems to
be scaling back. I believe Britain needs all three.”

Another
senior industry source told Press Gazette that the Government’s public
service arrangement needed to be unpicked in order to make it clear
that the public has just as much right to make demands on what cable,
satellite and digital television broadcast, and that news on those
services should be protected to a greater degree than it is at the
moment.

In July this year, the ITV News Channel’s reach was 8.8 million – 4.2 million behind Sky.

The
channel launched as the ITN News Channel in 2000, as a joint venture
between ITN and NTL, but the broadcaster sold its 65 per cent stake to
Carlton and Granada in June 2002. By November 2003, the network
rebranded the station as ITV News Channel. It was revamped editorially
this summer with Ben Rayner at the helm.

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