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Advertising slump pushes ITV into red

INCUMBENT ITV chairman Michael Grade yesterday remained tight-lipped as to any progress made on appointing a successor, as the broadcaster revealed the deepest advertising slump on record had pushed it into the red over the first half.<br /><br />ITV reported a &pound;105m loss for the six months to end of June, after it lost &pound;108m, or 15 per cent, of its advertising income compared to the same period last year. ITV made a &pound;1.5bn loss in the first half of 2008, though this was impacted by a &pound;1.6bn charge as it wrote down the value of its broadcasting businesses.<br /><br />The broadcaster&rsquo;s advertising revenues were slightly ahead of the sector as a whole, where net television advertising revenues fell 17 per cent. But Grade, who is due to stand down by the end of the year, signalled the worst of the crisis may have passed.<br /><br />&ldquo;Whilst the television advertising market has remained challenging in the second half, there are signs that the rate of decline is easing,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />ITV said it had upheld its peak viewing share at 27.8 per cent over the period, having benefited from its popular shows like Britain&rsquo;s Got Talent, which in May peaked with 20m UK viewers, the highest non-sport TV audience in six years.<br /><br />But the group confirmed fears about its ballooning pension deficit, which more than tripled to &pound;538m at the end of June, from &pound;178m at the end of last year.<br /><br />ITV also confirmed it has sold social network Friends Reunited to Brightsolid for just &pound;25m, having bought the site for nearly seven times that amount less than four years ago.