'News Channel decision will determine ITV's future role'

By Caitlin Pike

Former ITN editor-in-chief Richard Tait has told Press Gazette the
closure of the ITV News Channel would undermine the broadcaster’s news
strategy and in the worst case reduce ITN to “not much more than the
in-house arm of a network that has given up on the future of broadcast

Tait added: “The decisions ITV make in the next few months will
determine whether the country’s most watched commercial network thinks
it really has a long-term role in high-quality news.” He made the
remarks in a tribute to Sir Trevor McDonald, who leaves ITV News next
Friday (see page 20).

The immediate future of the ITV News
Channel remains in the balance after an ITV board meeting on Monday
delayed making a final decision over the channel until the New Year.
The purchase of Friends Reunited by ITV for £175 million is thought to
have overshadowed any final action.

An ITV source told Press
Gazette that “something would have to give” when ITV’s new children’s
channel launches in February next year.

“ITV only has so much spectrum space on Freeview, which is the platform on which the news channel performs best,” he said.

The news channel had its air-time slashed on Freeview when ITV 4 launched in the autumn. ITV’s lads’

channel, Men and Motors, was given priority over the news channel for what were thought to be commercial reasons.

and Motors currently breaks even and is predicted to make a profit next
year, while the ITV News Channel is thought to run at a loss.

the news channel is still available 24 hours a day on Sky and cable,
ITV has complained that it does not have a fair position on the
electronic programme guide on Sky. It is currently at position 525
behind CNBC, CNN, S4C (Welsh channel)n BBC News 24 and Sky.

source added: “The problem for the news channel comes down to money. It
runs on a far lower budget than Sky or BBC News 24 and does very well
on it, but ultimately ITV needs to decide how committed it is to it.”

Last week the ITV News Channel launched a new-look breakfast show
presented by Scott Chisholm. Starting on 12 December, the programme
will run from 7am to 10am and then again from 11.45am to 12.30pm. ITV
News Channel editor Ben Rayner told Press Gazette: “We are still
focusing on ways we can develop and make the channel better. It’s not
like we are sitting here getting all depressed.”

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