And finally, this really is the end for News at Ten

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The Independent Online
ITV WILL announce plans to abolish its flagship News at Ten programme and replace it with a late-night bulletin. The change, which ITV is expected to propose this week, will provoke the biggest dispute in television news for decades.

Insiders say the network is poised to tell the Independent Television Commission (ITC) that the existing 5.40pm early evening news will be replaced by a half-hour 6.30pm bulletin, and that News at Ten will disappear, ending its 31-year run.

The ITC's approval is needed before the move can go ahead, and experts say the outcome is far from certain. Consequently, ITV has been dreaming up a way of convincing the regulator that it is not simply devising a schedule to win audience ratings with extra films replacing news. It is expected to propose, as a substitute, a half-hour news programme, starting at 11pm, which would include plenty of regional items.

A backlash is expected as soon as the proposal is made public. The bulletin's founder, Sir Alastair Burnet, has expressed his dismay at the ending of a national institution, and ITN's political editor, Michael Brunson, has made clear he is a firm supporter of the 10pm slot.

The veteran reporter, Sandy Gall, is also in the frontline of resistance to a move that is perceived by many at ITN - which makes News at Ten - as an "evil plan". Politicians will also have much to say. Labour's Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the Select Committee on Culture and Media, is opposed to the idea.

Originally, ITV had hoped to make an announcement about its proposed new 60 Minutes weekly current affairs programme at the same time as scrapping News at Ten. A new current affairs programme, it was hoped, would help convince the ITC that the network was not "turning fluffy" - particularly important since only a few months ago the regulator criticised the number of "docusoaps" in the schedules.

But the 60 Minutes project has been dogged by controversy of its own. Granada is a front-runner to make the pounds 8m-a-year series, but the proposal has been complicated by allegations of nepotism. ITV's boss, David Liddiment, is from Granada, and its controller of news and current affairs, Steve Anderson is not only from Granada, but is also the brother of Jeff Anderson, the designated series editor. The row means it is unlikely that a 60 Minutes decision can now be tied to the News at Ten announcement.

When Mr Liddiment was questioned about it at the Edinburgh International Television Festival last week he remained tight-lipped and maintained that "doing nothing" was still an option.

"There's a lot of anger at ITN," one insider said. "This decision will mean that we have ceased to be competitive with the BBC on news."

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