ITV is considering moving its late-evening news once again – to a new 11pm slot.
Executives are discussing pushing back the 10.30pm bulletin – once dubbed “News at When” because of its shifting around the schedule – in order to free up more peaktime space for higher rating shows.
Senior sources said the idea, which they stressed was in the early stages, is being considered by network executives as part of a “melting pot” of solutions.
While the broadcaster is only obliged to screen 30 minutes of news in peaktime (6.30pm to 10.30pm), any move to 11pm would be regarded by Ofcom as a significant change and would need its approval. ITV Evening News airs daily at 6.30pm.
Freeing up the 10.30pm slot would give the broadcaster more flexibility to play big-budget dramas and entertainment between 10pm and 11pm.
ITV director of programmes Nigel Pickard said at the Edinburgh TV Festival he was happy with the news programme at 10.30pm, but ratings have not been great, currently averaging 2.5 million (15%) compared to the 4 million target ITV set when it relaunched the 10.30pm news in February 2004.
Insiders said that if the decision were made to make the move it would be some months down the line and would be unlikely to happen before Christmas.
An ITV spokesperson said: “ITV has said it is very happy with the news at 10.30pm and there are no plans to move it.”
Moving the news around has been something of an occupational hazard for ITV controllers. Pickard’s predecessor David Liddiment controversially axed the News At Ten in 1999 and ran bulletins at 11pm.
It was soon criticised by the then regulator the ITC in a high-profile row that rumbled on for months. ITV agreed to reinstate News at Ten for at least three nights a week in 2001.
The bulletin then lacked a permanent foothold until Pickard finally returned it to its current 10.30pm slot in February 2004.