BBC ignores Smith and brings forward news at ten switch

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The Independent Online

The BBC moved into confrontation with the Government last night when it rushed forward the move of its main evening news bulletin from 9pm to 10pm.

The BBC moved into confrontation with the Government last night when it rushed forward the move of its main evening news bulletin from 9pm to 10pm.

The main evening news will now move in two weeks' time on Monday 16 October. It will be at 10pm six nights a week, including Sunday night, giving Sundays a fixed evening bulletin for the first time.

The surprise decision was agreed unanimously by BBC governors in an unscheduled meeting on Monday night. The move was not due to take place until next spring, but the haste has been prompted by ITV'srecent compromise with the Independent Television Commission, which involved restoring News at Ten by moving the bulletin back to 10pm from 11pm on three or four nights a week from next year.

Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Media and Culture, who has expressed reservations about BBC and ITV going head to head, said yesterday: "This is a matter for the BBC governors, not the Government. I do, however, have considerable misgivings about their decision, because TV news is vital in our democracy. My concern is that the overall audience for TV news - and the quality of the service - must not be damaged by any change to scheduling."

He added: "If it becomes clear that the audience or the programme's quality has diminished, it will be incumbent upon the BBC governors - given their responsibilities under the BBC Charter - to review the situation."

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