30 August 2000

As forecast [WAMN: 22-Aug-00], BBC Television is to reschedule BBC1’s flagship evening news bulletin, Nine O’Clock News to 10pm, shifting the nation’s top-viewing news programme from the slot it has occupied for over thirty years.

The ratings-chasing gambit is designed to exploit the vacuum left by the move earlier this year of ITV’s rival News at Ten programme. It will also enable greater programming flexibility by creating more prime time slots for films and plays.

According to BBC Radio 4, the formal announcement will be delayed until Friday evening when new director-general Greg Dyke addresses the Edinburgh Television Festival.

A leaked internal memo from the chief executive of BBC News, Tony Hall, reveals that national and international news will fill "no less than 25 minutes" of the programme slot, with regional news accounting for the remainder. It will be retitled BBC Ten O'Clock News.

The air, meantime, was rent by the reverberating boom of politicians leaping aboard bandwagons. "What we've got is ... an attempt by the BBC and by Greg Dyke in particular, to move the news to a time when it will attract fewer viewers," said the Liberal Democrats’ broadcasting spoke, Norman Baker. He also accused Dyke of attempting to "push news and current affairs to the margins", turning BBC1 into “an all-singing, all-dancing popular show".

Conservative Party's shadow culture secretary Peter Ainsworth called the move a sign of 'dumbing down' with serious programmes being pushed out in favour of lighter fare: "Parliament will want to keep a very close eye on this; we will be watching like a hawk," he fulminated to The Times.

The Government, for once, said nothing.

News source: CampaignLive (UK)