MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: The News at Ten is dead. Long live the goal of news for all

The notion that someone can actually own the words ’news’, ’at’ and ’ten’, in that order, seems at best farcical. But then the whole issue of ITV’s News at Ten has not exactly raised the calibre of debate in British broadcasting.

The notion that someone can actually own the words ’news’, ’at’ and

’ten’, in that order, seems at best farcical. But then the whole issue

of ITV’s News at Ten has not exactly raised the calibre of debate in

British broadcasting.



Now ITN is threatening legal action against BSkyB’s decision to launch

Sky News at Ten in a petty manoeuvre which neatly underlines the

irrational sentimentality which has dogged ITV’s push to revamp its

peak-time schedule.



ITN believes it owns the trademark rights to the words and doesn’t want

Sky cashing in on them. The fact that no-one else seems to want them

appears to be irrelevant.



News at Ten, on ITV at least, is no more as of next Monday. The gnashing

of teeth and righteous wailing over the demise of this so-called

national institution has come to nought and, finally, we are to be

allowed a television schedule that - if ITV gets its new line-up right -

should suit many more people’s tastes. If only we could now see other

outmoded national institutions go the same way.



The traditionalists’ worry that we are now plummeting into a world where

Who Wants to be a Millionaire? is the closest we come to brain fodder in

the broadcasting world can take some comfort from the flood of marketing

and advertising campaigns designed to raise the profile of news coverage

as never before. When was the last time a raft of broadcasters

encouraged us to keep in touch with current affairs, as they have been

on the BBC , and soon will be on Channel 5, Sky and ITV? We can also

expect, in the short term at least, a fierce regulatory spotlight to be

thrown on news and current affairs output across the board. Any decline

in quality will provoke an uproar.



But, of course, this isn’t about what’s good for us. It’s about what’s

good for advertisers and, ultimately, TV shareholders. ITV hopes to

attract more viewers and more advertisers with a new line-up of

entertainment right through peak-time. Hence News at Ten will be

replaced by news at 6.30 and 11, but also by more comedy, more movies

and more quiz shows.



The point is that most people would rather see Who Wants to be a

Millionaire?



than high-quality network news or robust current affairs coverage. But

one question remains. Why? It’s hardly down to the high calibre of our

light entertainment.



While no-one would doubt the success of News at Ten for concise and

well-presented coverage, perhaps there is room for more current affairs

programming with popular appeal - and I don’t mean docusoaps or sex and

drugs exposes.



In the US, for example, news actually scores pretty highly in the

ratings, with four out of the top 20 shows in the news and current

affairs category.



Now that the News at Ten battle is dead and buried, what about a fresh

look at popular and respected current affairs peak-time programming?



After all, as all the broadcasters are now telling us, news can be sexy.



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