ITN was founded in 1955 as part of the British commercial TV network ITV. It has provided the main national news bulletins for the ITV network since that date, though it has no role in the regional coverage provided for each individual station within ITV, which comes from each station's own newsroom. With the expansion of TV channels in the United Kingdom, it also now provides national bulletins for Channel 4 and Five. In August 2000, the organisation launched its own 24 hour news channel which is broadcast on satellite, cable and digital terrestrial.
It also began its own 'World News' bulletins in the late 1980s, which were shown around the world on local television channels, particularly on PBS in the US, where presenter Daljit Dhaliwal enjoyed cult status. These were discontinued in 2001, in the face of competition from dedicated news channels such as BBC World, although it still provides footage to CNN International. Its ITV Evening News bulletin is shown on the Newsworld International cable channel in the US.
In the 1990s, under new ownership, it was accused of abandoning its previous news style, which was broadsheet in style, to mid-market tabloid, with news stories that focused on personalities in the news rather than heavy news coverage. The change in style matched changes in the nature of news coverage on the ITV network, which saw the axing of the long-running and award winning World in Action current affairs and investigative journalism news programme. ITN's most famous news programme, News at Ten was also controversially axed by ITV to allow it to broadcast films without the interruption of a 10 o'clock news bulletin. It was subsequently re-instated after criticism of the replacement 11pm bulletin. The restored News at Ten, is ten minutes shorter than its predecessor and carries less in depth news coverage. It also is broadcast at a later time at least one day a week, which meant it was often referred to as "News at When?". Since March 1999, the name ITN and its logo no longer features in the opening credits of the organisation's bulletins, with the term ITV News assuming prominence instead. The ITN name is now only seen at the end of bulletins.
There was increasing speculation that News at Ten will once again be moved permanently, after under-performing against the Ten O'Clock News on BBC ONE which is broadcast every weekday and on Sundays at 10:00pm. In October 2003, the Independent Television Commission gave ITV approval to move News at Ten to a 10:30pm slot.
Similarly, ITN's 24-hour news channel (launched some distance behind the wake of Sky News and BBC News 24) was jointly bought by the main ITV companies Carlton and Granada, and subsequently renamed and re-branded as the ITV News Channel. This has had one economic advantage: the News Channel now uses ITV1's news studio instead of its own smaller studio, and broadcasts simultaneously the main ITV1 news programmes, which continue to come from the same studio.
In the early to late-mid 1990's, the ITN bulletins on ITV reguarly attracted more viewers compared to their BBC counterparts. However, from the late 1990's, since News at Ten was first axed, the Early Evening News moved from 5:40pm to 6:30pm, and an improved BBC daytime schedule, all of the BBC bulletins have overtaken their ITN counterparts, and continue to lead over them. In addition, the BBC generally gets double the viewing figures that ITV gets for special news reports such as September 11, or the death of the Queen Mother.
ITN operates a radio news service on behalf of Independent Radio News, and between 1996 and 2002 owned a share of London News Radio which was based at ITN's Gray's Inn Road HQ and operated the LBC and News Direct London radio stations.