ITV plan to cut regional news gets go-ahead

The media regulator Ofcom is backing a plan by ITV to slash its regional news output in exchange for offering more localised bulletins across England.

Under the proposed terms of its new 10-year broadcasting licence, ITV will be allowed to reduce regional output, which is mainly news, by 31 per cent to 165 minutes a week. In London, the six-and-a-half minute lunchtime bulletin would be cut to three minutes and the half-hour London Tonight show will need to contain only 20 minutes of regional news.

To compensate, ITV promises to increase its broadcasting regions from seven to 14. The company, poised to report strong annual profits next week, argues that local news provision will be picked up in some areas by soon-to-launch local TV channels, such as the new London Live station being developed by the owners of The Independent and the Evening Standard.

Ofcom is now consulting on the changes, preparing for new licences beginning in 2015. It said: "We consider it likely that viewers would prefer the restoration of more local services, and this may be a better trade-off than retaining the status quo." It added that a full 30 minutes of local news in early evening bulletins is unlikely to be affordable long term.

ITV said the proposals will offer a better service to "cater to audience needs".