MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Bring back Trevor brigade puts new schedule in doubt

It’s typical of course. They never know how much they love you till you’re gone. Since Trevor McDonald’s quivering lip delivered the last bulletin back in March, News at Ten has never been more popular.

It’s typical of course. They never know how much they love you till

you’re gone. Since Trevor McDonald’s quivering lip delivered the last

bulletin back in March, News at Ten has never been more popular.



Waves of support, campaigns in the press and now a Government

inquiry.



You could barely open a newspaper last week without yet another story

about why News at Ten should be brought back. You couldn’t buy this sort

of PR. And even if you tried, some bloody journalist would knock it on

the head because it wasn’t exclusive.



Now the culture secretary, Chris Smith, seems determined to stoke the

blaze of publicity. He wrote to the Independent Television Commission

last week expressing concern about falling ratings and the quality of

the news bulletins ITV puts out at 6.30pm and 11pm.



Like the secret of good comedy, the secret of good news may be good

timing.



The 11 o’clock bulletin is now attracting around 2.5 million fewer

viewers than the old News at Ten, and 1.8 million less than the BBC’s

Nine O’Clock News. Creatures of habit that we are (and early nighters,

too, many of us), it seems that 11pm is a bit late for our nightly news

fix and 6.30pm a bit too early.



Yet with the BBC’s 9pm bulletin, Channel 4’s 7pm round-up, 24-hour

digital TV news services (including the planned 24-hour service from

ITN) as well as the ITV offering, the argument about the ubiquity of TV

news still holds true. There are plenty of ways of catching the

latest.



What remains an issue is ITV’s delivery of those promises it made in

order to secure the News at Ten move. One condition was that ITV should

widen its range of programming in the 9pm to 11pm slot. Although new

shows have been introduced, and successful formats such as Who Wants to

be a Millionaire? developed, much of the new-look peak-time schedule has

been seen as formulaic. That’s not necessarily a criticism because, as

far as the ad industry is concerned, those formulas are drawing in the

punters.



But there are precious few who see innovation, experimentation and

creativity as elements of the new peak-time line-up.



Ask the punters if they want Trev back at Ten, and they’ll say yes,

because not only has the hype already turned the show into a classic in

people’s minds, but because ’yes’ is a knee-jerk answer to many

campaigning questions.



But would they rather have Trev than James Bond or Chris Tarrant? I

suspect that if you asked them at ten o’clock on a Thursday evening

after a hard day’s work, the answer might be a little different.



News at Ten’s demise is not going to result in a nation of uninformed

couch potatoes, or at least not unless people really aren’t interested

in seeking out the day’s news - which may actually be more true than the

politicians would care to think.





claire.beale@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.



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