BSkyB bids for ITN's news slots

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BSkyB, Rupert Murdoch's cable and satellite broadcaster, had made a bid to replace Independent Television News as the supplier of news services on ITV.

The bid has yet to receive an official response from independent television's watchdog, the Independent Television Commission, which instead is taking time to prepare guidelines on how a formal proposal to become a designated news provider should be worded.

"At this stage, we haven't had a chance to work out the details," a spokesman for the ITC said. "Sky is asking us questions about how to make their offer."

Sky's bid marks the first time a competing news provider has formally challenged ITN's hold on the ITV contract. Under the terms of the ITV licences, only designated providers are permitted to bid, and the terms are subject to ITC review.

Sources at Sky News have said the company could offer news services for as little as pounds 30m a year, compared with the pounds 55m charged by ITN. Sky already broadcasts 24 hours of news a day on satellite and cable. Sky is also is also prepared to bid for the news contract at Channel 4, now served by ITN. Sources suggest that Sky could beat ITN's pounds 16m-a-year service by as much as pounds 6m.

ITN would not comment directly on the prospects of a competing bid from Sky. But the news broadcaster said talks with ITV about renewing the current contract - which runs out in 1997 - have yet to start.

It is believed Sky's bid has been welcomed by at least four ITV companies - HTV, Yorkshire-Tyne Tees, Anglia and Meridian. They hope to see their share of the annual news budget decline, either by forcing ITN to moderate its prices or by ushering in a cut-rate service from Sky.