Right of Reply: Richard Eyre

The chief executive of the ITV network responds to criticisms of their `Nightly News'
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The Independent Culture
THE INDEPENDENT's Paul McCann ("Bad news for ITN as Blair misses the headlines") reports concern at Number 10 about the timing of ITV's Nightly News programme which has, over the last few months, started just before or just after 11pm on a number of occasions.

Last night I wrote to the Prime Minister to reassure him that the timing difficulty is a transitional problem.

The lead time on new programmes is such that in the first months following the move of News at Ten, we have been levering some programmes into the new schedule which had been commissioned to fit the old. As a result, the timing of the Nightly News has been altered more often than is ever likely to happen in the future.

For the longer term, the ITC has granted us a degree of flexibility to apply a 15- minute grace period either side of 11pm for the Nightly News. This is to obviate the need to cut feature films or to interrupt extra time in football matches, which cause more viewer irritation than a delay to the news.

So I have reassured the Prime Minister that with these exceptions, from the autumn the ITV Nightly News will be broadcast at 11pm five nights a week. A slight degree of variance, where the timing of commercial breaks means that programmes sometimes start marginally after the clock hour, has always been a fact of life on ITV - this applied equally to the old News at Ten.

The reinvigoration of ITV, after a long period of decline, has involved some bold decisions, including moving the news. But this has helped ITV to reverse a spiral which threatened our continuing ability to fund a diverse and high quality schedule.

Surely that's worth a few transitional inconveniences?