ITV News Channel to close

Broadcaster ITV is to close its News Channel, it announced today.

Around 70 mostly editorial jobs are expected to go as a result, according to sources.

The National Union of Journalists condemned the move as an "absolute outrage".

Director of Television for ITV Simon Shaps said: "The question we have asked ourselves is what does news look like in five or 10 years' time?

"The answer is that it looks very different from the traditional 24-hour rolling news format that we are used to now.

"Increasingly, viewers will want news on demand via a variety of different platforms and we are investing in the technology and expertise to deliver that."

The News Channel is made by ITN. It is not yet known when it will close.

NUJ national broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin said: "This is an absolute outrage because in making this decision, ITV are basically signalling their intention to remove themselves as serious players in news coverage.

"It is a devastating blow for ITN staff in the run-up to Christmas, a real disaster.

"It just shows ITV are abandoning their commitment to news. They had consistently said they care about it but their actions speak far louder than words."

The NUJ would be holding an emergency meeting, Mr McLaughlin said.

"We are certainly not going to take this lying down," he added.

The demise of the channel leaves BBC News 24 and Sky News as the big players inthe British 24-hour news market.

ITV said it would make significant additional investment to expand its national and international newsgathering operations and increase "its focus on developing new media solutions".

It will introduce news bulletins on ITV2 and ITV3, and expand newsgathering in the north of the UK, with increased emphasis on sports news.

It said it would expand its news unit, including a "breaking news team" ready to broadcast open-ended news coverage if necessary.

ITV news and regions chief executive Clive Jones said: "News remains at the heart of ITV's public service commitment, which is why we need to safeguard its future health.

"By reinvesting this money in the flagship news shows and exploring new media opportunities, we will guarantee that the ITV News stays powerful and relevant in the digital age."

Staff were told the news at a half-hour meeting this morning with Mr Jones, andITN chief executive Mark Woods.

The channel, which launched in August 2000, has been losing millions of pounds.It is expected to close by the end of January or early February.

An ITV spokeswoman said it hoped to re-employ as many people as possible. Around 70 staff work on the channel.

Today's announcement will free up space on Freeview, where ITV is launching a children's channel in February.

The news channel's hours were cut on Freeview two months ago.

The channel has been fronted by a roster of presenters, including Alastair Stewart, who will continue working on ITV1's regional programme London Tonight and other news bulletins.

ITV said today's announcement would result in a £2 million investment in its news programming.

It is investing in newsgathering technology and creating a news bureau in Beijing.

Regional news will also be strengthened and broadband and mobile on-demand services are being developed.