Media: Channel 4 delves deeper into news

Channel 4 has barely been out of the news in recent weeks.

The announcement that its lunchtime news bulletin and More4News were to be axed to protect the evening programme was quickly followed by the revelation that chief executive Andy Duncan was to depart before the end of the year.

Despite these difficulties, the channel's flagship 7pm news bulletin continues to have a reputation for weighty coverage, with a strong emphasis on in-depth analysis.

PR professionals say Channel 4 News offers more opportunities than its terrestrial rivals the BBC and ITV.

Edelman media director Jo Sheldon says: 'It's really seldom you can get on the news agenda with something like the BBC 6 O'Clock News unless you're doing a massive launch. We find Channel 4 News quite interesting on the longer-form news feature pieces they do.'

Senior home editor Yvette Edwards says: 'We aim to have come up with a definitive take on the day's news by 7pm so that we can offer the viewer everything they need to know on any given story.'

This in-depth approach is driven by new technology such as Twitter, which is challenging TV in its ability to break news.

This was rather cruelly illustrated by the fact the axeing of the lunchtime news slot at Channel 4 itself was all over Twitter virtually as it happened.

Channel 4's answer is to focus on detail and analysis. PR professionals must work well in advance if they want to get a piece on the programme, unless they have the story of the century.

Mandate Communications CEO Sacha Deshmukh advises: 'Breaking news stories have to be really strong to get coverage on the day, as they just don't have the resources to abandon what they're doing and pick up a new story.'

Deshmukh adds that the news team tends to be very busy in the mornings, so stories are best emailed on the previous afternoon, under embargo: 'If you would prefer to call, I would suggest waiting until after 2pm.'

Suggestions for experts and spokespeople are welcomed, particularly if someone is available who can take part in live studio interviews.

Edwards says: 'If you have a high profile client who wants to add to an ongoing debate then it is worth getting in touch. This could be the chief executive of a company who has something to say about the recession, or a leading researcher on swine flu if we are in the middle of a pandemic.'

Deshmukh says Channel 4 will always try to present a balanced story: 'The more you're willing to help with that, the greater chance you'll have of getting maximum airtime for your side of the story.'

Viewing figures: 900,000 - 1 million for 7pm bulletin (Source - Channel
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- How does Channel 4 News fit into the wider TV news market?

People watch Channel 4 News because they want a distinctive take on a story or because they want analysis alongside the news of the day. We also spend more time on stories and do in-depth interviews and discussions.

- How can PR professionals work with Channel 4 News?

We are interested in good stories, exclusive interviews and being the first to reveal something genuinely newsworthy. There must always be a sound editorial reason for doing a story.

- Any PR pet peeves?

Ultimately we will only be interested if there is some news value in what they are offering.

- How should PROs liaise with Channel 4 News if they have a story?

If they are contacting us with stories or information then email the planning desk, unless they are trying to give us a big news story. If a PRO works in a particular sector it is worth contacting the relevant correspondent directly.

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