ITV has been lacking since the demise of News at Ten

It is now three months since News at Ten ended, sparking a major overhaul in the way news is presented across all the networks. Among opinion-formers, the changes, introducing the 6.30pm ITV Evening News and 11pm Nightly News, are widely held to have failed. And, yes, I still miss News at Ten.

It is now three months since News at Ten ended, sparking a major

overhaul in the way news is presented across all the networks. Among

opinion-formers, the changes, introducing the 6.30pm ITV Evening News

and 11pm Nightly News, are widely held to have failed. And, yes, I still

miss News at Ten.



I asked Carat Insight to do some comparative research and discussed the

changes with key advertising figures who were gung ho about the

revamp.



My first conclusion is that, while the public perception is a trifle

unfair, ITV - and to some extent ITN - has a major PR problem on its

hands and it is going to get worse. What should it do? ITV’s public

stance currently is to keep a low profile. It’s defensive, but

sensible.



It can argue, as the ITC recognised, that the new schedules will take a

full year to bed down. That the audience is still confused about what to

expect, but that freedom to run two-hour dramas and films is

appreciated, though ITV needs to arm itself with research on that point.

The ITC is bound to ask searching questions about whether classic News

at Ten viewers, upmarket males, have been lost.



Its problem, and it may be temporary, is that news programme audiences

have risen during most of the past three months (the Kosovo effect).

BBC1’s Nine O’Clock News audience during April was 17 per cent up on

April 1998.



But ITV could do more to correct the statistical unfairnesses which

abound by comparing, say, ratings of seven million for the 10pm slot in

the weeks before News at Ten was abolished, with 6.5 million

afterwards.



ITV is praying that new entertainment and adult factual programmes will

start to come good, in both critical and ratings terms, so that 10pm

disasters, such as Mr and Mrs with Julian Clary fade from the

memory.



Advertisers are holding their fire - although there is no sign yet of

the additional tens of millions of pounds of extra revenue anticipated

by ITV barons from a more populist schedule.



As Christine Walker, the combative managing partner of Walker Media,

said last week, ITV needs to recognise that pushing news to the margins

has not proved a great move and is not the solution to ITV’s sliding

overall share.



Carat’s research shows a pretty mixed outcome: higher adult audiences

for the 10pm slot on Wednesday and Friday, but lower on Monday and (of

course) Thursday, when the new, flabby current affairs hour, Tonight, is

run and ruthlessly targeted by BBC1.



Across the weekdays, there has been no real change or gain, only a sense

of loss. One positive sign is that the 11pm Nightly News has a younger

audience than News at Ten - but with two-thirds of its ratings. Axing

News at Ten has produced a disappointing and messy result.



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