ITV lobbies for regions

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ITV kicked off a lobbying campaign yesterday aimed at persuading the new Labour government of its commitment to regional programme making.

The channel sent to MPs, MEPs and peers the results of a survey that found three- quarters of viewers believed ITV served their local interests better than the BBC.

The survey showed that 58 per cent of viewers preferred ITV's local news compared with just 39 per cent for the BBC. It also showed 59 per cent of viewers chose ITV's local arts and entertainment programmes compared with 22 per cent for the BBC. Leslie Hill, ITV's chairman, admitted that the report had been timed to follow the general election, but denied the channel was trying to cosy up to the Labour Party.

"This is quite a good time to be doing this," Mr Hill said. "New Heritage Secretary Chris Smith has said he is keen to ensure regional programme making is protected. It is important that we make ourselves known. We spend pounds 200m a year on regional programmes and regional news which is a mind-boggling figure."

ITV has begun lobbying with an eye to next year's licence renegotiations. The 15 ITV licensees will begin talks next year to reduce the pounds 400m they cpay annually to the Treasury.