ITV criticises BBC news plans



ITV has today accused the BBC of "following" it by opening up the 9pm slot for news specials to provide extended coverage of the looming war on Iraq.

Tonight will see ITV1's News At Ten become the News At Nine as the end of George Bush's two day deadline for Saddam Hussein draws to its close.

Last night, however, the BBC made a last-minute decision to abandon regular programming to schedule a programme covering the Commons debate on the war.

The move followed an announcement earlier in the day by BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey, who outlined the channel's news plans in the event of war. Among the changes are an extension to the three main news bulletins at 1pm, 6pm and 10pm and a roundup of the headlines at 8pm and 9pm.

"The BBC doesn't seem very clear about what time its news is going to be on - it looks like the BBC has now got its very own News at When?" Steve Anderson, ITV's controller of news, told the Media Guardian.

"More importantly, why are they following ITV? We are moving to 9pm to avoid a head-to-head clash. Now the BBC seems intent on creating another one."

A BBC spokeswoman said the corporation had no intent of moving the 10pm bulletin, but would schedule extra programmes when required.