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MOVE THE NEWS TO 10.30, ITV ORDERED; ITC ready for legal battle.

ITV will be forced to move its 11o'clock Nightly News to 10.30pm, The Mirror can reveal.

The Independent Television Commission watchdog will demand the change within two weeks. Viewing figures for news have plummeted since ITV axed News At Ten 14 months ago.

But the ITC order will lead to a showdown with channel chiefs, who are refusing to move the late-night bulletin. The ITC has already taken legal advice to ensure it can enforce the change.

Watchdog chairman Sir Robin Biggam says a 10.30pm compromise is the only option.

But one ITV executive said last night: "We will fight this all the way. We are robust on not moving programmes from where we want them. There is no way we would move the Nightly News to 10.30pm.

"Clearing the schedules has proved a successful commercial move - and we are a commercial broadcaster."

But a source close to the negotiations said: "That simply won't wash with the ITC. They are extremely concerned with the number of viewers who aren't watching the news on ITV any more.

"And they plan to ensure that serious measures are taken to bring them back. They want the news on earlier. And they plan to get it."

ITV plans to tell the watchdog that it will win back 11pm news viewers by scheduling more big ratings winners immediately before Dermot Murnaghan's round-up.

The ITC believes moving the show earlier will improve ratings, which have fallen nearly 1.5million since the shake-up.

Over 30,000 readers signed up to The Mirror's Bring Back News At Ten campaign

A senior ITC source said: "The 11pm news is just too late."

ITV, which has seen advertising revenue rise pounds 70million since it dumped News at Ten, has been given until May 18 to come up ideas to win back news viewers.

Channel chiefs were last night holding emergency talks at the Montreux TV Festival in Switzerland.

Their promise in November to revive News At Ten for special political events like general elections has failed to buy off the ITC.

ITC factual chief Steve Perkins said last month: "The ITC has the power to tell them to put News at Ten back."

An ITC spokeswoman said last night: "Once we've got proposals from ITV then we'll give our views. We have pointed out the problems it's up to them to come up with a solution."

ITV refused to comment.
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Author:Methven, Nicola
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 5, 2000
Words:403
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