SPOTLIGHT ON: TV NEWS SCHEDULING: Who will be the winners if TV news shows are revamped? - Alasdair Reid wonders if the ’bongs’ risk spoiling a good evening’s TV viewing

Commercial broadcasters are always banging on about how committed they are to news. But then they have to say that - the sanctity of news is written into their licences. The truth is that it’s a dreadful inconvenience, and makes peaktime scheduling a nightmare.

Commercial broadcasters are always banging on about how committed

they are to news. But then they have to say that - the sanctity of news

is written into their licences. The truth is that it’s a dreadful

inconvenience, and makes peaktime scheduling a nightmare.



Take ITV for instance - with News at Ten starting an hour after the 9pm

watershed, the network has just 60 minutes of sophisticated programming

time in peak. And, whatever strategy it pursues, the audience begins

dribbling away after the bongs.



That could all be about to change. News at Ten could be on the move.



Yes, we’ve all heard this before - John Major famously intervened to

stop it happening the last time it was seriously on the agenda.



But sources now indicate that the ITV Network Centre has told ITN to

prepare for rescheduling.



It could be part of sweeping changes involving the whole commercial

sector.



The bulletins are about to play musical chairs. Channel 5 has already

announced that it is moving 5 News to a 7pm slot. It is bullish about

taking on the rather serious, broadsheet-inspired, Channel 4 News.

Kirsty Young, the presenter for Channel 5, has ... let’s say, a more

attractive style than Jon Snow and pulls in younger audiences.



Will Channel 4 move? It might see an opportunity to edge closer to BBC

1’s main evening news at 9pm, spiking its guns and stealing a huge chunk

of audience for the commercial sector.



News at Ten’s six-million strong audience is puny in ITV terms and

Channels 4 and 5 pull in just 850,000 and 420,000 respectively for their

main bulletins.



Not so long ago, broadcasters could comfort themselves in the knowledge

that, even if it wasn’t a ratings winner, news at least commanded

premium advertising rates. News is serious, grown-up stuff watched by

serious grown-up people with seriously grown-up disposable incomes.



The audience remains the same, but advertisers have woken up to the fact

that it’s a lousy environment. Television news, despite the best efforts

of Martin ’Pollyanna’ Lewis, is bad news, full of disasters, tragedies,

famines and stock-market crashes.



Are there major audience and revenue gains to be made from marginalising

news? Yes, David Cuff, the broadcast director of Initiative Media, says

- especially for ITV. ’We’ve always argued that ITV could do a lot

better with a clear run through to 11pm - but the benefits wouldn’t feed

through instantly,’ he says. Cuff also believes that the only people

interested in news these days are regulators - and they are increasingly

out of date in their concerns, given that there’s so much news on tap on

satellite.



Andy Barnes, head of advertising sales at Channel 4, takes issue with

this. He can’t see Channel 4 running scared from Kirsty. He says: ’It’s

a competitive market and anything that keeps us on our toes is fine. But

we believe that our news is a real point of difference - it’s the only

hour-long, serious, broadsheet television news programme. Its slot is

the right one. What I can see happening is not just a marginalising of

news in scheduling terms, there is also a trend towards trivialisation -

the ’dogs on skateboards’ tendency. The more that happens the more

important it is for Channel 4 to provide something substantial.’



But Paul Parashar, the broadcast director of New PHD, maintains that all

this talk of scheduling obscures a more important point.



’Sooner or later ITV especially will have to face up to the fact that

its news offering doesn’t generate much enthusiasm,’ he says. ’ITV

companies have to do something to make it a demanded programme, not

merely an inconvenience in their schedules.’



Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £46 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).