ITV chief misled us, MPs say

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The Independent Online
THE FIERCE political controversy provoked by the proposal from some of ITV's 15 regional companies to move News at Ten intensified yesterday when a Commons committee complained it had been misled by Greg Dyke, the chief executive of London Weekend Television.

Mr Dyke, chairman of the ITV Association council, which will consider the news schedule on Monday, was repeatedly asked by the National Heritage Select Committee last Thursday if LWT's application for licence renewal 'had given a commitment to maintain the main ITN news bulletin at 10pm'.

A special committee report published yesterday said: 'The committee was led by Mr Dyke's evidence to understand that the listing of the main ITN bulletin was contained only in the indicative schedule submitted to the ITC (the Independent Television Commission).'

However, after the public hearing, Sir George Russell, chairman of the ITC, sent the committee the 'core information' that LWT had submitted with its licence application.

The committee reported yesterday that for the weekend news service, the core information proposed 22.00-22.30 for 'the main evening bulletin'.

The committee was told that the Broadcasting Act requires licensees to adhere to the 'proposals submitted to the ITC under the heading of core information' - but regardless of the legal position, any attempt to move News at Ten would breach the spirit of undertakings given.

The MPs said an earlier bulletin could not 'offer coverage of any news that developed beyond the afternoon, including political news, sports results, news from America and hard-hitting news that is normally withheld from younger audiences'.

The argument advanced by ITV that a 15-minute bulletin after 11pm would fill that gap, 'failed to take into account that such a bulletin would be later than the peak period'.

The committee said the companies' moral obligation was clear.

News at Ten; National Heritage Committee; Sixth Report, Session 1991-93. Commons paper, 799.

Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television, formed from the merger of two ITV contractors last year, is axing 188 jobs, 46 at Newcastle, 51 at Leeds and 91 in London - 289 jobs were lost in November last year. Peter Moth, Tyne Tees broadcasting director, said the London jobs and four of those at Newcastle were airtime sales posts which were being taken over by London Weekend Television.