ITV loses appeal to show less children's television

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The media regulator, Ofcom, has rejected an attempt by ITV to cut the amount of children's programming that it must air each week on its main ITV1 channel.

The news is a significant setback for the broadcaster, which has complained loudly about what it sees as highly commercial programmes put on by rivals at a time when it must screen shows for children, in particular Channel 4's late-afternoon schedule of quiz shows Countdown and Deal or No Deal.

Under the system for television advertising, ITV and other commercial broadcasters are paid by advertisers for their share of the television audience at any given time, not the absolute number of viewers. As there are more adults than children watching television, even in the late afternoon, ITV suffers from the greater popularity of adult shows that are scheduled against its children's programming.

ITV's output for children includes Pocoyo, My Parents are Aliens and Art Attack. Although not a legal obligation, under an agreement with Ofcom, ITV1 must show eight hours a week of children's programming. The regulator yesterday said it had declined an ITV proposal for a "significant change in the volume" of this programming.

An ITV spokesperson said: "Ofcom has acknowledged that children's output is an area that might be difficult to sustain on ITV1 in the run-up to digital switchover." The spokesperson also pointed out that ITV now has a dedicated children's channel, CITV, which is available in homes with digital television.

ITV is also in talks with Ofcom over the Contract Rights Renewal (CRR) formula, which punishes the broadcaster for loss of audience with an equal cut in advertising revenues. The CRR battle is likely to prove protracted and is ITV's toughest regulatory hurdle yet.