The BIG news – from ITN 

26 February 2018

From Monday, the 8.55 p.m. weekday News from ITN switches to 10 p.m. – to become News at Ten. Presented by Alastair Burnet and Andrew Gardner. It also doubles in length to half an hour. Why? How will the extra time be used? The questions are answered here by SIR GEOFFREY COX, Editor of ITN, talking to Anthony Davis.


From the TVTimes Anglia for 1-7 July 1967

At first sight, it looks as if we are just lengthening the News — but that isn’t so. The revolutionary thing is that we are getting flexibility into it.

In the beginning of British television, news was given in short bulletins and the development of that news was done in in-depth programmes set at arbitrary times on arbitrary days — programmes like This Week. But these programmes were not related in any way to the flow of news.

The first attempts at surmounting this problem were by extended, special news programmes when big news broke. Party political conferences, for example, have always required extra time to report them

Then we moved into a period of special reports. ITN did specials for such occasions as President Kennedy’s tour of Europe and the assassination of Dr. Verwoerd, the Prime Minister of South Africa.

This developed into programmes like Dateline, the first regular late-night programme in depth.

Dateline was never networked to all companies, however, so we could never hold material out of the news bulletins to show later.

I assume that the BBC established 24 Hours to deal with this problem. It was a good pattern. But we believed there was another way of solving it.

Instead of continuing the short news programmes and then having a longer one later, we believed it was possible to combine in one programme both news and news analysis in depth.

And that is what we are going to do. Our experiment is twofold. We have half an hour in which we can either simply present the news or present and interpret it. We will have time to give it as fully as we need.

At the moment, when we need extra time, we go back to the programme companies and ask for it. The companies are generous, but we have to think in terms of expanding the short bulletins. This we did throughout the Middle East war.

Now things will be different. The price is that the news must be later — at 10 p.m.

News… news… news… it is coming in from all over the world. Soon it will be going out again, over the air, and the news-room staff rush to get it ready. Second on the left is Peter Snow

Half an hour earlier, in the heart of entertainment time, a half-hour News would not be acceptable to the majority of viewers. And we need extra time to prepare the programme properly.

We are trying to prove that the news of the day can fill half an hour, either by its sheer dramatic quality or because it can be more readily assimilated if it has analysis at the time.

We think that TV News has become the primary source of information for the bulk of the population. A recent survey bore this out. And we think that it will be far better if it includes the interpretation and analysis necessary.

A final briefing: Reginald Bosanquet, seated, David Nicholas, ITN deputy editor, Brian Wenham, a duty editor, Diana Edwards-Jones, director, Anna Price, vision mixer, Pat Harris, production assistant, and Stephen Wright, with arms outstretched, a duty editor

We believe it will make 30 minutes of good viewing for three reasons:

First, there is now much more TV material, news in TV form, available to us because of Eurovision, satellites, more cameramen and the latest videotape techniques. If only a Middle East satellite had been available to show reports of the recent war live from Beirut.

Secondly, the use of highly qualified journalists in the studio will hold the audience. We have a very powerful team. Alastair Burnet is a superb broadcaster, the greatest into-camera broadcaster TV has developed since Ed Murrow.

Andrew Gardner is an extremely able conveyor of information, with a very considerable potential which will come out when he gets away from the 13 minute confines.

In Reginald Bosanquet and George Ffitch we have two of the best interviewers of the day. We won’t have to trundle into the studios one expert after another. We have them in our own team.

Thirdly, television is more and more originating its own news. We used to purvey it from other sources. Now we find our own and we have a very good political correspondent, Donald Cullimore, joining our political team.

We shall change our studio presentation. We shall change the appearance of the studio to give the sense that the viewer is looking out on to the world. We shall be making use of a big television monitor behind the newscasters.

Normally there will be three or four men in the studio — Burnet and Gardner and Bosanquet or Ffitch.

Gerald Seymour faces the camera waiting for a cue from Pat Harris for a live report

To sum up, news is not just for bulletins. It forms a TV programme and can hold an audience as a programme, a major part of everyone’s viewing and not just a brief break into reality from the entertainment and escapism of TV.

One night we may fill the programme with one item, as with the Aberfan disaster or the war in the Middle East. On another night it may be possible to pack all hard news into five minutes and give the rest to a major interview in depth or a piece of film of great human interest.

On another night there may be three main items with the news wedged in between them. There will be no rigid pattern. Every night we start with a blank canvas.

At the mixing panel – Anna Price and director Diana Edwards-Jones

In general, there will be more human interest material, more small, perhaps unimportant, but human and interesting stories which have tended to be squeezed out of the bulletins. And there will be more elbow room for fuller reports of Wimbledon tennis, Test matches and other sport.

In view of the longer programmes we shall drop Dateline and Reporting ’67, because their functions will be taken over by News at Ten.

It is not easy to meet the interests of Daily Mirror and The Times or The Guardian readers within one programme. But we believe we can do it.



Alastair Burnet, Andrew Gardner, Reginald Bosanquet, George Ffitch

Here are the key members of the team which will bring News at Tea to the screen. Peter Snow will concentrate on diplomatic reporting. Julian Haviland, Donald Cullimore and Richard Wakely will cover politics. John Whale will cover the Uoited States, Tom St. John Barry, crime, and Richard Dixon, industry and economics.

There will be four major foreign correspondents: John Edwards, Alan Hart, Richard Findley and Sandy Gall. And their coverage will be backed up by Gerald Seymour and others of the ITN staff.

They will also be backed by men of the regional companies. “The regions helped greatly with Aberfan, the Torrey Canyon, Donald Campbell’s death and the return of Sir Francis Chichester,” said Sir Geoffrey. “We reckon they have a key part to play in this.”

There is just one element missing in his coverage — a woman reporter. “We haven’t had a woman staff reporter since Elizabeth Kenrick,” said Sir Geoffrey. “But we continue to look for one. If we could find a good one, I would even be prepared to use her as a newscaster.’’

Above pictures from the TVTimes for 28 October to 3 November 1967.

You Say

1 response to this article

Chad H. 13 March 2018 at 11:57 pm

One has to laugh at the quaint idea that they would have to “prove” the events of the day could fill half an hour…

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