Ahead of talks that will determine ITV’s future broadcast licence and its public service obligations, the broadcaster confirms weekend reports that it will be extending its early evening news bulletin.
From March 2022, ITV’s 6:30pm news programme will be extended to a 60 minute broadcast. Emmerdale will move to 7:30pm. Coronation Street becomes an hour long programme running on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. ITV’s regional news service at 6pm is unaffected.
Michael Jermey, ITV’s director of news and current affairs denied the extended news programme would have a softer second-half, to compete against BBC One’s The One Show. However, a move to cover more hard-hitting stories will see ITV’s news competing against Channel 4 News, also produced by ITN. The future of Channel 4 News is itself in doubt, tied in with ongoing discussions on the future of Channel 4 and who it might be sold to.
The revamp of ITV’s early evening schedule comes as regulator Ofcom is due to commence the process of reviewing the licence obligations of Channel 3 broadcasters – which now includes ITV and STV. The process will determine how much news the network must broadcast and the level of regional programming.
Licence renewal time is when ITV traditionally woos the regulator with revised news commitments. The last renewal cycle a decade ago saw ITV undo some of its previous cuts to regional news, promise additional current affairs programmes in the Border Scotland region and overhaul the look and feel of its news bulletins. Current Channel 3 licences end in December 2024.
According to Ofcom’s plan of work for 2022/23, the regulator will also assess the long-term role of commercially funded public service media providers. It is due to report to the Secretary of State this June on whether current obligations are sustainable.
The 6:30pm bulletin was originally used by ITV as a way of removing its previous obligation to broadcast News at Ten. The broadcaster later backtracked, but ITV’s 10pm news has struggled to gain traction against the BBC’s 10pm offering. As a result, the ITV Evening News is normally the channel’s most watched bulletin.
Meanwhile, ITV has faced stiff competition from Channel 5. Earlier this month, Channel 5 reported growing primetime viewing figures. Its focus on factual helped it gain viewers in the ABC1 demographic, lucrative to advertisers.