Forget all the brouhaha about whether the Spice Girls can survive
with two of them up the duff, surely the most interesting dilemma facing
the nation of late is whether ITV, or indeed the British public, can
survive without News at Ten being the news at ten.
Tedious as the media feeding frenzy over the saga has become, please
forgive me for adding to the acres of column inches on the subject with
a few of my own.
The issue has, of course, centred on whether News at Ten is a sacred
monolith to be honoured and revered as part of the fabric of British
Or whether it is simply an element of ITV’s schedule which must justify
itself in aggressive commercial terms alongside all the other elements
of the ITV programming armoury.
If the ITV rumour mill is to be believed, then we can expect ITV chiefs
to approach the Independent Television Commission in September with a
proposal to move the bulletin to a new time slot.
Most seem agreed that if the News at Ten is to move (and is allowed to
move) then an early evening bulletin at 6.30pm, followed by an update at
11pm, appears to be a sensible solution. This would open the airwaves
for lots of lovely films and dramas starting at 9pm and running straight
through without having to take an intermission to remind us that there
is a real world outside telly land.
But the great and the good (that’s a handful of vociferous MPs) look set
to take exception to the plans. And not for the first time, either.
One argument that has been posed in favour of keeping News at Ten where
it is is that working people are not home by 6.30 and are going to bed
by 11pm, so won’t be able to view the rescheduled bulletins. True enough
for many commuters, but not for all workers.
The argument also ignores the fact that if you miss the 6.30 news, you
could try Channel 4 or Channel 5 at 7pm (both providing respectable news
output) or Sky News, BBC News 24 and CNN, 24 hours a day. There is not a
dearth of news on TV, though it is possible to argue that there’s room
for more home-grown quality drama of the sort that ITV is promising to
run from 9pm.
Moving the news is an issue which seems to have been raging since
President Clinton was a happily married family man. The problem is that,
for many people, News at Ten represents one of life’s touchstones - an
institution which should stand firm against the vagaries of
Except, of course, that ITV is a commercial channel and, apparently,
moving the news could net the broadcaster a cool pounds 80 million in
additional revenue, and this at a time when it is losing the Channel 4
funding formula money and fighting off competition from an increasingly
commercially minded BBC. Surely now is the time to end the agonising -
even if the News at Six Thirty doesn’t have quite the same ring about