MEDIA: ITV expands regional news

ITV News Channel, the 24-hour digital service, has launched a nightly, primetime programme devoted to regional news.

The move is expected to give regional PROs another avenue to get their messages across on a local and national platform, according to Dominic Crossley-Holland, head of the ITV News Channel.

The programme, called The ITV News Network, is broadcast Monday to Friday between 8-8.30pm and is aimed at beefing up the channel's regional output.

The half-hour show will contain key stories from ITV's 29 regions.

Crossley-Holland said: 'There are loads of possibilities. The channel is completely open to new ideas.'

He recommended that PROs should use their contacts with ITV regional stations in the usual way. About 100 reporters and 150 camera staff are employed by ITV regions in addition to the ITN team based in London.

'The regions have helped us break a number of stories,' he said, citing the suspension of the fire strikes and the death of Myra Hindley as examples.

The new programme, which is masterminded by senior programme editor Ben Rayner, will also look at how big national news stories impact at a local level. Some editions will be themed on one issue to reflect developments in different areas on the same story.

Crossley-Holland said the format would develop: 'This is step one. You can't afford to rest on your laurels in TV news. The onus is on us to re-invent and challenge the London orthodoxy. This helps us give a view of what ordinary people around the country think.'

Live interviews and more original material are among the potential additions to the programme.

The news of ITV's programme change comes just days after culture secretary Tessa Jowell commented on the need for rival station BBC News 24 to boost its regional coverage to make it more distinct from Sky News. Her comments followed a critical report on News 24 by former Financial Times editor Richard Lambert.

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