Five News has seen an 11 per cent slump in audience levels for its early evening bulletin since Natasha Kaplinsky returned from maternity leave in February, according to the Daily Mail.
The paper says her maternity leave replacement, Matt Barbet, brought in 820,000 viewers in December. The average audience so far this month is 727,000.
A Five spokeswoman said: “Fewer people watch TV in May compared to December.”
An unnamed TV industry source said: “At the very least that would suggest that Five simply did not need to spend that kind of money [£1m] on her deal. News is not a priority area for them.”