ITV told to keep their news at ten

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PLANS by several ITV companies to move News at Ten to an earlier time slot appeared to have failed yesterday, writes Martin Wroe.

Sir George Russell, chairman of the Independent Television Commission, ITV's watchdog body, wrote to the chairmen of all 15 regional Channel 3 (ITV) companies saying such a move could be in breach of licensing conditions.

In the letter, Sir George reminds them that franchises were allocated on the basis of companies' specific proposals. He notes the ITV licensees had all agreed in applications to 'provide news bulletins at lunchtime, in the early evening and during peak time', and that several went further and 'specifically proposed to provide the peak-time bulletin at 10pm'.

He emphasised that unless the ITC approved otherwise, the timing of the peak time and early evening news bulletins could not change without Channel 3 licensees being in breach of regional conditions.

The letter is a shot across the bows of the Council of the ITV Association which meets on Monday to discuss moving News at Ten.

A copy of Sir George's letter has gone to the Prime Minister and to the Labour leader, John Smith, both of whom have written to Sir George expressing concern at any time change.