ITV is to pilot changes to its 6pm news bulletin which will likely see its national and regional news programmes integrated into an hour-long programme.
To make any such changes on a permanent basis ITV would need approval from the media regulatory Ofcom. Therefore before implementing any massive changes to the format of its 6pm news programme the broadcaster is piloting the changes to see how they work and how audiences react to them. The current format of ITV’s news at 6pm is regional programming – drastically revamped several years ago when the regions were “slimmed down” – followed by national/international news at 6.30pm. The two programmes are treated as separate but the new pilots will see the news bulletins integrated into one programme with regional bulletins included.
It’s possible the changes will mean ITV’s national news moving to 6pm to directly compete against the BBC. At the present time BBC One’s 6pm news programme out-rates ITV and focuses on national and international news with 6.30pm dedicating to regional news programmes. If ITV were to switch around its news bulletins it would allow the broadcaster to directly compete against the BBC. However, ITV and BBC already compete at 10pm and ITV are routinely beaten by the BBC – so it seems unlikely they’d score a victory at 6pm.
There were suggestions earlier this year that ITV’s news output – produced for the broadcaster by ITN – would be slimmed down at 6pm with only a half hour news programme covering national and regional news with the remainder of the slot filled with a new game-show. However, such a move would also require approval from Ofcom which ITV would be unlikely to get.
There are also reports that ITV is seeking to buy the shares of ITN which it currently does not own. ITV owns 40% of ITN with Daily Mail and General Trust, Reuters and United Business Media owning the remaining shares. There would be concerns though over such a move especially given ITV’s buyout of GMTV – the breakfast broadcaster. ITV bought out the Disney, who co-owned the business, and ditched the GMTV brand re-launching its breakfast output as Daybreak with Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley. The multi-million pound re-launch didn’t go down well with viewers and Daybreak still attracts half the audience of rivals BBC Breakfast and less than the average for GMTV in its last few months.