It’s about time too if you ask me…
Tara Conlan and Mark Sweney
Monday August 13, 2007
ITV is to take its news bulletins back to basics and cut back on gimmicks such as presenters standing up to read the news.
Ever since Kirsty Young changed convention by perching on a desk at Five News, broadcasters have been coming up with new ways to make bulletins more innovative and informal.
Bulletins have also increasingly relied on more high-tech graphics, as pioneered by 24-hour news channels such as Sky News.
However, sources say that ITV plans to ensure there are fewer distractions for viewers and is planning "more substance" to its news bulletins.
Planned changes are understood to include allowing ITV’s 6.30pm bulletin anchors Mark Austin and Mary Nightingale to sit down to read the news.
The difference in height between the two has often been commented on. One source said: "It just looks daft. It distracts from what they are saying."
According to sources, the ITV director of news and sport, Mark Sharman, is reviewing all areas of the output and is keener on gravitas than graphics.
Since Mr Sharman added news output to his sport responsibilities in March, there have already been some changes to ITV News, with regional news moved back to the end of the national bulletins.
Although a full ITV News relaunch is not on the cards, further tweaks – that will focus more on substance than on style – are expected.
The video wall will be kept, but insiders said there will be fewer graphics on it, to avoid distracting from what presenters are saying.
There have also been some internal changes at ITV News supplier ITN, with the departure of long-serving correspondent Harry Smith and social affairs correspondent Helen Wright.
ITV executive chairman Michael Grade has taken a keen interest in his network’s news output since arriving in January.
Mr Grade has not ruled out reopening the long-running "News at When?" debate and changing the time of the 10.30pm late bulletin on ITV1.
The proposed changes at ITV News come at an interesting time for the terrestrial news broadcasters.
Last week it emerged that BBC News has had a good first six months of 2007 with its BBC1 One O’Clock News, Six O’Clock News and 10 O’Clock News bulletins all increasing their ratings lead over their ITV1 rivals.
The 10 O’Clock News added 200,000 viewers to post an average rating of 4.8 million; compared with 2.4 million for ITV1’s 10.30pm bulletin, which stayed steady.
BBC1’s Six O’Clock News was up 100,000 viewers to 4.3 million, compared with ITV1’s 6.30pm news, stable at 3.9 million.
In another twist, there could be some changes in news anchors. With the departure of Kirsty Young from Five News to focus on Desert Island Discs, the broadcaster is on the lookout for a big name to replace her.
Possibilities are reported to include ITV’s Nightingale, the BBC’s Sophie Raworth and GMTV’s Kate Garraway.
A ITV spokesman said: "ITV appointed a new director of news and sport, Mark Sharman, earlier this year and of course we are always reviewing the output to ensure it stays fresh and relevant."
ITN declined to comment.
Some sanity at last!