MEDIA 24-HOUR NEWS: ITN joins an ever-rolling stream of news - What Sky News started a decade ago, big British broadcasters are finally catching on to. The latest entrant to the 24-hour news field is ITN. How will it fare?

With Sky News just having celebrated its tenth birthday, the sleepy heads of the British broadcasting establishment have finally woken up to what is going on.

With Sky News just having celebrated its tenth birthday, the sleepy

heads of the British broadcasting establishment have finally woken up to

what is going on.

ITN has announced that it is to start its own 24-hour UK news channel,

following in the footsteps of the BBC, which did so two years ago.

Broadcasters have realised that television news is no longer something

that people will sit and watch at an appointed time - they want to be

able to access it whenever they choose and they want continuous live

coverage of major events.

That Sky’s 24-hour continuous news channel should have provoked ITN and

the BBC to launch their own says a lot about Rupert Murdoch’s ability to

back a winning idea and the quality of the channel his organisation


When Sky News started there was no certainty - least of all at the

established channels - that the idea was a good one. Murdoch wanted to

copy Ted Turner’s success with CNN in the US, but the UK was an untested


For ITN’s launch in January, the risk is less than it was for Sky. The

channel will have the luxury of millions of multi-channel homes to

target - a ready-made market built largely by BSkyB. On the other hand,

it will be joining a market which is already crowded.

Not only will there be three continuous news channels focusing on the

UK, but there will also be competition from the begetter of them all -

CNN International.

In addition, there is also the international Euronews service, which is

available with an English language soundtrack, and the business news

service, CNBC.

ITN sees its news service as a logical extension of its current

operations - one that will generate extra revenue while drawing on some

of its existing resources. The company intends to use well-known faces

such as Julia Somerville as anchors, and to draw on the core news

operation which supports the company’s existing news services for ITV,

Channel 4 and Channel 5.

Distribution across all three digital platforms (direct-to-home

satellite, cable and terrestrial) will ensure a significant pool from

which to attract viewers.

The proliferation of news services is good news for PR agencies with an

eye for a visual story. While a large amount of transmission time is

taken up with re-packaged versions of the same top stories, these

channels also broadcast softer feature material which use video news

releases (VNRs).


By Simon Cole

Position: managing editor

Weekly reach: 4.5 million from satellite and cable distribution

’Our audience is Daily Mail readers crossed with Daily Telegraph

readers. It is a ’dip in and dip out’ kind of service - this is why we

have the concept of rolling news with headlines every 15 minutes. It is

not designed for hours of viewing on end - we just keep updating and

refreshing the top stories. ITN is coming into a market which is pretty


I think they are going to find it a culture shock. When you start a

24-hour news service you are on a rollercoaster you cannot get off

Doing 24-hour news is like running a marathon not a sprint - it takes

difficult resource management.

’As for the influence of PR agencies on the channel, there was a time

when we banned VNRs, but now we judge them on merit. We do not use

interviews from VNRs, but if someone has sent a camera crew to Rio we

may use the story, but with our own spin. We will put different

interviews in. VNRs that are more likely to get on the screen are those

with a green agenda, or animal stories - something where there is not a

commercial motive.

’What I would say to a PRO is that if you are good at your job, your

product will get on. Look at arch spinners like Alastair Campbell - we

are well aware that we are being spun, but if the story is good we will

go with it.’


By Tim Orchard

Position: controller TV news channels

Weekly reach: 5.5 million across all platforms including terrestrial


’We started BBC News 24 two years ago because we knew that in the

multi-channel world the number of people watching terrestrial news would

fall. The fact that ITN is now doing a service strengthens the BBC’s

case for having one. The BBC has the biggest network of bureaux in the

world, so we had the advantage that we were not starting from


’Six million people a week now watch our service, if you include the

late-night terrestrial carriage. They use a 24-hour news channel in a

different way from terrestrial bulletins. We built our hour-long ’news

wheel’, as it is called, to accommodate this. In the first half-hour you

get a pacy, bulletin-style service, including one minute of sport, one

minute of business and two minutes of weather. In the second half-hour,

we do more sport and features, but they are pretty clearly tied to our

news agenda.

’Our point of difference is not the structure, but our journalists. If

John Simpson is filming in Belgrade for the Nine O’Clock News, for

example, we can use him on News 24 - it is a substantial point of

difference. We do use PR material like VNRs occasionally, but under

strictly controlled circumstances and we would always label them.’


By Chris Cramer

Position: president

Weekly reach: 6.4 million viewers weekly across Europe

’CNN International, our global service, attracts a blue-chip demographic

- an affluent, predominantly male audience. They are late-30s up, maybe

business travellers, decision-makers, movers and shakers,

middle-to-senior management.

’Unlike the other UK 24-hour news services we are international, but we

are competing with local services for the same eyeballs. Partly because

of this we regionalised our service in 1997 and the UK now gets a

Europe-focused service whereas before CNN International was the same all

over the world. We produce 40 hours a week out of London and Berlin, but

we still think of ourselves as an international service with European


The perception of CNNI is that it is US-centric, but while that may have

been the case once, it is not now. We transmit less than ten per cent of

made-for-US programming - more than 90 per cent is made for the

international audience.

’We have also put on other kinds of programming to give the audience

other reasons to watch - art, literature, music, current affairs,

business and documentaries. We are not great consumers of VNRs, but we

are not religious about avoiding them - some stuff is used for general

library material.’

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