This is the news Jim, but not as we know (or want) it

So “Sir Trevor McDonald” (it is illegal to say ‘Trevor McDonald’ without putting ‘Sir’ in front of it) has just completed his second gruelling week back at the helm of the resurrected News at Ten. It doesn’t seem to have worked for ITV.

They’ve made a big fuss about how they are bringing back an institution, even though they killed if off in the first place so that it wouldn’t get in the way of the football or something. And they are making a big deal about how Trevor McDonald is back presenting it while keeping quiet about the fact that they spent years shunting him around various scheduling back-alleys in the ignominious “News at When?” days.

I don’t even get all of the fuss about Trevor McDonald. Everyone goes on about how he’s the country’s favourite newsreader. I don’t get it. His delivery is wooden and robotic. His is like one of those voices that blind people have to put up with on their screen readers on their computers. And have you ever seen him smile? I haven’t.

So if it seemed like his heart wasn’t in it originally, imagine what it must be like now! He thought he had finished with all of these late nights. Now he is being paid £1,633 per minute to deliver the news in his odd staccato drawl.

And that brings up the next thing that’s wrong with News at Ten. It is so painfully obvious that he refused to come on board if he had to do all the heavy lifting. So the bulletin is shared with Julie Etchingham. Presumably they couldn’t use Mark Austin (how pissed off must he be about all this?) because having two male presenters would be, like, so gaaay or something. As if doing it (the bulletin, I mean) with someone young enough to be your daughter is any less perverse.

But since when was the “heavyweight” late-night bulletin double-headed? This must be the first time it’s happened. I thought the point of having two people presenting the news was so that you could have all of that cringeworthy banter during the light moments, which is why until recently they had two people presenting the Six O’Clock Tabloid News, which is all light moments apart from the faux Daily Mail-style scaremongering bits at the start.

But News at Ten is not meant to have banter, except for the ‘and finally’ bit, but there is only one ‘and finally’ story so there’s not much space for banter there. No, Julie Etchingham is just there so that poor Trevor McDonald can save his breath. He now only speaks for around three minutes per programme apparently.

Then there is this monstrosity.

“This is the news!”

All I can say is, it must have been fun to be that timpani player.

ITV seem to think that reviving News at Ten would give them credibility, gravitas and prestige. But it has actually highlighted many of its major weaknesses. It’s just quick fix after sticking plaster.

Throw money at a problem. Bring in a big name star. Remix the theme tune to the point that it becomes self-parodying. Use overly-flashy computer graphics which make it look more like the deck of the USS Enterprise than a newsroom.

The fact is that ITV News is still rotten. It is focussed too much on gimmicks and sensationalism. It doesn’t matter how much of an ‘institution’ the title of the programme and its main anchor are. If the programme is rubbish, people will not watch it.

That is why by the third day of the new run of News at Ten it had lost a third of its viewers and remained over 2 million behind the BBC Ten O’Clock News. Which has no gimmicks at all.

6 comments

  1. You know, I didn’t even realise they resurrected News At Ten. I guess that shows how much I don’t rely on ITV for news. For me the BBC get it just about right with very few gimmicks, as you say. BBC Breakfast is a bit fluffy but I don’t mind that in the morning. ITV just doesn’t do it for me. But I can’t knock a guy who manages to earn £1,633/minute just from reading an auto-cue.

  2. I have the vaguest impression that you don’t care for ITV News 😉

    (Never watched it before, am unlikely to watch it now)

    THat spoof of the BBC effort was amusing though – I must have missed that episode of whatever it was that Armando Ianucci was doing at the time – a very humorous man indeed!

  3. BBC does it for me too newswise – haven’t watched ITV’s news since it started up again, but the pre-publicity was always going to bump up the ratings to start with at least.

    I’m pretty sure they continue to use Sir Trev because he isn’t actually real, and therefore is very cheap despite the supposed hugely inflated pay packet – he gives the impression of being an animatronic puppet with his strange speaking style and jerky head movements.

  4. Largely agree. Not sure when I actually last watched ITV, much less their news programme. I may catch parts of it at lunchtime, but only before switching over to BBC News 24.

    A puzzle for you though. The news is produced by ITN, *for* ITV. OK, so I’m perhaps distinguishing two organisations that are joined at the hip, but ITN is the organisation that brings Channel 4 news to our screens.

    The Channel 4 news programme is, in my view, the single best television news programme going. Newsnight is a close 2nd, but is frequently just too dreary or antagonistic for my tastes. I find much of BBC1’s news bulletins painful (All those presenters taking turns to read *one* headline).

    C4 have a decent time slot and allocation, top notch presenters (who continue to produce some solid journalism), and an independent sense of purpose.

    I fear it’s the “target demographic” problem (or whatever you might call it). The commissioners at ITV are requesting ITN produce a programme that remain ‘soft’, ‘engaging’ and ‘relevant’, or similar such, and in doing so are losing sight of the very reason people are watching the news. To be informed in a way that feels authoritative. Sounds like they’ve missed it badly, and I’m a bit worried that the great saviour Michael Grade may not be so great, or much of a saviour, if this is what we’ve got to judge him by.

  5. You mean you don’t think Sir Trevor McDonut should have been knighted for services to reading out loud?

    “I fear it’s the “target demographic” problem”

    Where’s the problem – news on ITV fits it’s viewers the “***** from Hell” brigade. Morons have to be catered for as well you know 😉

  6. I’m sure if ITN were invited to produce a serious, heavyweight current affairs programme that wasn’t headed by Trevor McDoughnut, they’d jump at the opportunity. Obviously the problem isn’t with ITN because they do a really good job with Channel 4’s programmes.

    Incidentally, has everyone else noticed how the ITN branding has disappeared without a trace over the years? It used to always be called “ITN News” and “ITN News at Ten” (heh, it rhymes) and with ITN logos all over the place.

    Now the only clue that ITN are involved is in the credits at the end.

    For anyone interested, here is a longer version of the “no news” sketch from Time Trumpet which Adam Buxton made. It comes complete with a joke about pointless two-ways.