The Independent Television Commission yesterday strongly rebuked ITV over its plans to delay the News at Ten by 15 minutes next Monday to accommodate an extended episode of the hit programme Cracker.
The ITC is concerned that the decision to delay the news for the 75- minute television drama starring Robbie Coltrane was "a slippery slope down which ITV should not be going".
The surprise rescheduling move, which some saw as a testing of the ITC's resolve, is certain to reopen the old debate about the positioning of the flagship bulletin. Many ITV companies have long wanted to shift it to make way for the uninterrupted broadcast of films and drama series.
The ITC, which by late last night had not yet been informed officially of the rescheduling, said: "This certainly seems to be in conflict with the conditions of the [ITV] licence." ITV is required to air half an hour of live news in peak viewing time. In the past, ITV has broadcast extended-length episodes of hit series such as Prime Suspect on successive evenings or over the weekend.
The matter is to be considered by commission staff today and could be referred to members of the full board for further action if the rescheduling plan goes ahead. Possible sanctions include fines and a shortening of the franchise period.
Until now, delays to the start of the news have been due to live sporting events deemed of exceptional interest, coverage of breaking events or broadcasts of national importance.
Dear Marcus Plantin, Section 2