Media Lifeline: News At Ten

The iconic news bulletin has been through numerous time-slot and image changes.

March 1999: Having launched in 1967 as ITV's flagship news programme, News At Ten soon becomes something of a national institution. But in the 90s, under increasing ratings and commercial pressures, the network makes no secret of its desire to kill it off in order to run films and drama right across peaktime. It plucks up courage to wield the axe in 1999 - arguing that its early evening bulletin (and a late-night summary) is more than enough news.

October 2000: But the regulators were not amused - and told ITV that it risked formal censure for failing to meet its statutory requirement to broadcast the highest quality news service. The network's response is to bring back News At Ten (in its 10pm slot) for three nights a week and run it (News At When?) at 11pm for the other two weekdays - while reserving the right to drop the 10pm slot entirely to make room for the odd Bond film now and then.

February 2004: But this alienates viewers and diminishes the brand, despite the enduring popularity of the veteran presenter Trevor McDonald. Following further regulatory pressure, ITV hits on a compromise and moves News At Ten to a new 10.30pm slot.

January 2008: Under its executive chairman, Michael Grade, ITV begins making more of an effort to maximise its heritage brands - and in early 2008, News At Ten is reinstated in its traditional slot. But it struggles to make headway against the BBC's Ten O'Clock News and ITV continues to fret that its regulatory commitment to news is a worrying burden to carry in an increasingly competitive market.

November 2009: As recession bites, ITV begins wriggling out of its regional news duties, while seeking to get the best out of News At Ten. It decides that, in a revamp, the opening graphics featuring Big Ben will have to go, but the disembodied "bongs" are retained.

Fast forward ...

August 2010: And, in fact, the bongs are the only heritage items that survive when News At Ten is given an even more radical makeover. Acting on insights from focus groups in Salford, ITV relaunches it as a news bulletin more appropriate to the modern age. Not least for people unfortunate enough to live outside Westminster - a celebrity magazine news and gossip format hosted by Kate Thornton and Dermot O'Leary.


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