Right of Reply: Richard Eyre

The chief executive of ITV Network replies to Fergal Keane's attack on the decision to end News at Ten
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AN IMMEASURABLE volume of words has been exchanged on News at Ten. I admire the programme and yet I concluded that, after a fantastic, 31- year innings, it was time to make a change. In many ways I am similar to the viewers who, when researched, are unstinting in their praise for the programme but, in the quiet of their living rooms at 10pm, vote for a change.

It is plain wrong to read into this outcome a final kicking away of the chock that restrained ITV from its plummet away from public service and towards a primacy of ratings and revenue above all fine things.

If that were the plan, it would ultimately be the undoing of ITV. In a market as competitive as ours, we must seek out sustainable points of difference between our service and others. No commercial competitor will ever command audiences as large as ITV, sustain its unique regional persona or invest the same sums in home-produced production. These underwrite ITV's public service and its commercial positioning.

Right now we have to take positive steps to restore the profile of ITV's audience to that of the population as a whole. This is a proper re-weighting of our audience performance to ensure that we appeal more to younger and more up-market viewers. They are the most discerning; they will not be seduced by cheapies from America. Only continued investment in high-quality drama, sport and new comedy, as well as news, current affairs and documentary, will provide moments in their busy lives when a couple of hours with ITV is their favoured leisure option.

We are at the point where wordy rejoinders to the nay sayers are pretty pointless. We just have to get on with it and prove them wrong. So we will.