ITV daytime no kids stuff

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LONDON -- ITV is playing down suggestions that it will drop children's television from its afternoon schedules, despite axing kids shows from its daytime lineup for the first half of January.

A spokeswoman for the network said that the move was related to the Christmas period, but would not comment as to whether it was part of a more permanent schedule change.

"In terms of future schedules, obviously, all broadcasters only schedule and bill so far in advance, and ITV determines the precise scheduling of programs -- for children and all other genres -- based on a wide range of factors," the spokeswoman said.

The temporary schedule change is thought to be an attempt to determine how the afternoon schedule would perform without kids programming. Drama series including "Inspector Morse" are being aired opposite such runaway daytime hits as Channel 4's "Deal or No Deal."

ITV has been trying to cut back its government-imposed quota of kids programming so that it can -- like its rival Channel 4 -- air more commercial programs in key early-evening slots.

The broadcaster was told by media regulator Ofcom last September that it could not cut kids programming from its afternoon schedules. But network bosses have been lobbying the regulator behind the scenes to give the broadcaster more flexibility.

ITV has argued that its kids' commitments are met by the Citv digital kids channel, which is available to 90% of U.K. homes.

"ITV1 continues to schedule a significant level of children's programs, including original material, each week, substantially more than its main commercial competitor, the publicly owned Channel 4," a spokeswoman for the network said.

"This comes over and above the very high volume of children's programs, again including original material, on the Citv channel, which is available -- free of charge -- to over 90% of the U.K.," she added.

ITV is expected to renew its call for fewer restrictions on its afternoon lineup when it publishes its annual statement of program policy later this year, in partnership with Ofcom.
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