MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: It’s about time we got used to it: the News at Six Thirty

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.

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

life.



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

commercialism.



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

it.



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