ITC brings back News at Ten

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ITN's News at Ten is to be restored less than a year after millions of viewers were lost when it was switched to a later time.

ITN's News at Ten is to be restored less than a year after millions of viewers were lost when it was switched to a later time.

The Independent Television Commission (ITC) said ITV's flagship news show would be brought back in the New Year.

It will be broadcast Monday to Thursday and will be 20-minutes long. A Friday night bulletin will go out according to the night's schedule.

The ITC has also granted ITV flexibility in weekday news scheduling to allow the uninterupted screening of feature-length drama, films, live sport and entertainment events.

Its decision follows pressure after viewing figures were lost when it was rescheduled to 11pm earlier this year.

David Liddiment, ITV's director of programmes, said the new scheduling represented an "imaginative solution".

He added: "ITV retains the ability to adapt to changing viewer demands, remain commercially competitive and sustain investment in programming, whilst improving news accessibility for audiences.

"Films, feature length drama and live sport, uninterrupted by news, will remain a key feature of the ITV schedule thanks to the flexibility we have secured. This is a real win for viewers."

Culture Secretary Chris Smith also gave his backing.

He said: "The fact that ITV and the ITC have reached an agreement which will result in a news programme at a fixed peak time slot is to be welcomed.

"My primary concern has been the decline in news audiences which followed the demise of News at Ten, and I hope this announcement will help to reverse that trend."

But the move has been attacked by the chairman of the Commons Culture Committee, Labour MP Gerald Kaufman.

Mr Kaufman said it called into question the competence of the ITC as an effective regulator.

He added: "It is deplorable to say we are getting back News at Ten when it may not be News at Ten at all and when it will only be 20 minutes.

"I think the ITC has shown itself to be too weak. This does not restore the kind of confidence in the ITC that would make one confident of its continued existence.

"Compromises rarely work and I think this is an unhappy ending to an unhappy episode."

However shadow culture secretary Peter Ainsworth welcomed the announcement as a "sensible compromise".

Mr Ainsworth said: "Many people will welcome the return of a high quality news service at 10 o'clock.

"I commend ITV's commitment to extra investment in high quality news services and, at first sight, the new arrangement looks like a sensible compromise."

ITV has agreed to clearly signpost any schedule changes to viewers in advance, so the public are well aware of the times of all bulletins.

There will be no changes to the ITV Evening News bulletin at 6.30pm on weekdays.

The late night regional news bulletin will remain unchanged at 11.20pm.

As a result of today's agreement, the ITC has withdrawn its direction to ITN to move the bulletin to an earlier slot and ITV has withdrawn judicial review proceedings against the ITC.

Sir Robin Biggam, the ITC chairman, said: "The Commission has accepted ITV's imaginative proposal to provide viewers with news in the late evening when they are more likely to watch, combined with the flexibility to deliver long form drama, one hour documentaries, current affairs and other programmes to their audiences."

He said the key to the settlement had been the agreement to allow ITV "the flexibility to fight its corner in an increasingly competitive market place".

And he added: "This package will clearly benefit viewers."