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NEWS AT 10.30; Bulletin to move as ITV admits defeat.

ITV bosses will cave in and move their late night news bulletin to 10.30pm - but only after a final showdown with TV watchdogs.

Tomorrow the Independent Television Commission will reject ITV proposals to leave the Nightly News, fronted by Dermot Murnaghan, at 11pm.

ITC sources said yesterday they feel it is "just too late". But ITV intends to argue that the news is best where it is - in the graveyard slot. And they will agree to the half hour shift only as a last resort.

A senior ITV executive said yesterday: "The battle has become like a poker game and it'll be a case of who blinks first.

"It may seem as if ITV will take it to the wire but if the ITC looks too robust there is a plan to concede on the back foot and bring it forward half an hour."

An ITC source said: "If ITV believe for a moment that we're going to be weak about this then they are very wrong."

The watchdog says it has the power to reinstate News At Ten if it feels ITV is letting down viewers.

But channel bosses do not agree and both sides were promising that they intend to go all the way.

Sources said Culture Secretary Chris Smith would applaud the shift.

An aide said: "Chris feels very strongly that the move has resulted in a loss of more than 1.3 million news viewers on ITV and anything which reverses that is likely to be welcome."

But Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the Commons Culture Committee, said: "10.30 is still too late - 10 is what we want."

An ITV spokeswoman declined to comment.

News At Ten was axed in March 1999 for uninterrupted films and dramas in prime time slots.

But it caused a storm - a Mirror campaign to reinstate it was supported by 30,000 readers who jammed our hotline.

A month ago the ITC rejected ITV's proposal to inject pounds 20million into programmes before the news to boost ratings.

Chairman Sir Robin Biggam gave ITV four weeks to come up with better ideas.

He said: "This will be ITV's last opportunity ... the uncertainty cannot be allowed to continue."

ITC chiefs admitted in private that only moving the news would do.

On Friday ITV again failed to offer a change of time when it submitted a second set of proposals.

Here Isn't The News - Page 6
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Author:Methven, Nicola
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 21, 2000
Words:403
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