MEDIA Profile: Bringing ITV news to the frontline - Steve Anderson, controller of news and current affairs, ITV

As ITV begins a revamp of its news and current affairs output for the new year, the BBC’s Steve Anderson has been brought on board from Januray to lead the offensive as controller of news and current affairs.

As ITV begins a revamp of its news and current affairs output for

the new year, the BBC’s Steve Anderson has been brought on board from

Januray to lead the offensive as controller of news and current

affairs.



Currently head of consumer programmes at the BBC, and the man behind

Watchdog, Anderson brings an action-packed heritage to the new post.



Anderson has lived most media studies graduates’ dream of a career,

working on World In Action, Panorama and Newsnight before coming to

consumer programmes.



While on Newsnight in 1990, for instance, he was rushed out to Saudi

Arabia after Iraq invaded Kuwait, flew back after a few weeks when it

became clear that the war wasn’t going to start for a while, only to

walk into Geoffrey Howe’s resignation and the speech that helped to

bring down Margaret Thatcher.



No sooner was the Conservative leadership battle over, then Anderson was

back in the Gulf, sneaking into closed off towns to film. He arrived in

Kuwait City through the infamous Mutla Pass with the Egyptian Army, past

the charred bodies of Iraqi troops fried in the US airforce’s battle of

the night before. Surely everything seems dull after that six month

period?



’It’s easy for that to happen and you do see it in reporters who become

war junkies, unable to file stories without bombs going off,’ says

Anderson.



’Journalistically speaking, however, a war is pretty hard to cover

badly.



It’s not a story you can miss. Labour’s Formula 1 row, on the other

hand, takes proper journalistic work.’



Anderson is keen on the root and branch of journalism, arguing that

presentation is irrelevant unless the raw facts are there. He is very

wary, however, of what he calls the journalistic agenda. ’I think news

reporting hasn’t changed over the last few years while viewers and the

world have changed enormously,’ he argues. ’News programmes still see

things in terms of the cold war and the Labour/Conservative political

battle. One thing I believe is that people want news that is useful to

them. They often see Tony Blair and William Hague slugging it out in the

Commons as irrelevant bickering.’



He argues, for instance, that people would be more interested in news on

a breakthrough in breast cancer than in the latest procedural dispute in

the Commons. Is that dumbing down?



’I don’t think UK television has dumbed down at all,’ he says. ’But I

think we could introduce elements of tabloid coverage to TV

journalism.



By that, I don’t mean the awful stuff they do but the sharp, succinct

and provocative reporting style tabloids employ. It’s hard for me to

tell you what I plan to do when I reach ITV, because everything is open.

It’s a time of great change in news and current affairs. What I can tell

you, however, is what I hate. I hate boring news programmes and I won’t

have them at ITV.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1987

Producer, BBC Breakfast News

1988

Producer, Newsnight

1994

Senior producer, Panorama

1995

Head of consumer programmes, BBC

1998

Controller of news and current affairs, ITV



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