Ofcom has approved Channel 5’s request to change the conditions of its licence relating to its news provision, giving the go-ahead to plans for the channel’s extended, early-evening weekday news bulletin this Autumn.

The hour-long 5 News programme at 1700 will replace the two existing 30-minute broadcasts, at 1700 and 1830, in Channel 5’s early evening schedule. This will enable the programme to examine and unpack stories in greater detail and create space for more investigative, regional and social affairs reporting, as well as coverage of international matters.

Ofcom’s decision recognised the overall benefit that the change will have on public service broadcasters’ (PSB) news delivery, particularly for the high proportion of harder-to-reach audiences who already tune in for Channel 5’s 1700 bulletin.

Under the terms of the new licence, Channel 5 will maintain its existing commitment to deliver a minimum of 280 hours of news each calendar year. The introduction of an hour-long programme on weekdays will create an uninterrupted three-hour window of PSB news broadcasting starting with 5 News in early-evening and ending with Channel 4 News which runs till 2000. Channel 5’s commitment for an early evening programme on Saturdays and Sundays remains unchanged.

The change to Channel 5’s licence conditions reflects the popularity of 5 News’ early-evening news programming with women, younger audiences and viewers from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. Viewing figures from September 2021 show that 5 News has been watched by more than 44% of the TV viewing population so far this year, with programme audiences skewing younger than ITV’s and BBC One’s early evening news programmes. Compared to all other early evening news programmes, Channel 5’s existing 1700 bulletin attracts a higher proportion of women (60%) and viewers from DE socioeconomic groups (39%).

Ofcom’s decision also acknowledges that audiences have been affected by changes in working and commuting patterns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. A significant proportion of the audience who might previously have been commuting in the early evening would already be at home and would therefore benefit from an extended news bulletin.

Ben Frow, Chief Content Officer, ViacomCBS, said: “As the rest of Channel 5 has been transformed by increased UK investment, we feel it is important that our news offering reflects the expectations of viewers we have attracted to the channel over the past few years. Today’s announcement by Ofcom will allow us to expand the provision of high-quality impartial news which is increasingly important to UK audiences.”

Cait FitzSimons, Editor, 5 News, said: “Ofcom recognises the value of trusted, regulated news services to viewers and we welcome this opportunity to expand our programme to a full hour to offer even greater depth and insight into the topics we know our audiences care about. We have some exciting ideas that we are currently developing and look forward to the launch in the coming weeks.”

Jon Creamer

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