Date set for court battle over future of ITV news

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The Independent Online

ITV confirmed yesterday that it will mount a High Court challenge to an order by the Independent Television Commission to reschedule the 11pm Nightly News bulletin introduced as a replacement for News at Ten. The decision effectively leaves a judge to determine the outcome.

ITV confirmed yesterday that it will mount a High Court challenge to an order by the Independent Television Commission to reschedule the 11pm Nightly News bulletin introduced as a replacement for News at Ten. The decision effectively leaves a judge to determine the outcome.

The network said a judge, Mr Justice Owen, had given a written direction approving its appeal for a judicial review of the ITC ruling - with the case to be heard no later than the end of next month.

The announcement comes just over a month after the ITC issued a "legally binding direction" to ITV to bring forward the Nightly News to an earlier time slot.

It follows a months-long battle of wills between ITV and the ITC, the commercial television industry's main regulator, stretching back to early spring. A stand-off was always likely as the ITC has never made this sort of instruction to change a programme time before, and there is uncertainty in the industry over whether it has the power to do so.

An ITC spokeswoman said: "We obviously knew ITV had applied for a judicial review and we wouldn't challenge their right to do so. In our direction, we said that the scheduling change should happen in the week beginning December 4, which in terms of TV scheduling isn't that far away, so we are looking forward to getting this matter sorted out next month."

Since News at Ten was scrapped more than a year ago, ITV has come underfire from politicians and journalists for its falling news ratings. The original hope was that uninterrupted films and dramas, which could not be shown under the old-style schedule, would boost audience numbers.

But while viewing figures at certain times have risen, contributing to a £100m increase in advertising revenue, those for ITV's news bulletins have fallen by up to 13.9 per cent.

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