ITN launches its early-morning news service 

13 December 2021

DAVID MANNION offers some background information on the C4 service which launches this week.



The Lens masthead

From ‘The Lens’, ITN’s house magazine, for April 1989

ITN’s role in the new Channel Four early-morning service, The Channel Four Daily is, without question, the single most important development for us since the start of Channel Four News.

The future of the company will increasingly depend upon our ability to win and keep contracts such as this. The competition is already tough and it will get tougher still.

In fact ITN has two separate contracts for the early-morning service. The first is for the news modules – three 12-and-a-half minute slots each weekday morning plus a pre-prepared compilation programme for transmission on Sunday mornings. The second is for the continuity or “sleeve” and this involves ITN in a role it has never previously played, the role of transmission controller.



In order to win these contracts we had to do two things: come up with the best ideas; and deliver within the budget Channel Four had allocated. If you think about it, combining these two requirements was a difficult job because the best ideas are often the most expensive.

David Mannion

Mannion: “important development”

By now you will be familiar with the format for the news modules. Channel Four required a truly international news and our idea for three presenters, each one covering a section of the world, was a major factor in our success. It also provided us with a major challenge.

Within a couple of months and starting from scratch we had to set up the system, recruit the staff, design, build and install the sets and, in the case of Tokyo from where we shall cover the whole of Asia, we had to open a complete new bureau and negotiate picture access deals with major Asian television organisations.

The philosophy of the news modules is straightforward enough – to provide viewers with a “snapshot” of the world each morning. We will report the stories you might see on the front page of the International Herald Tribune or on the foreign news pages of, for example, the Financial Times and the Independent. At the same time we must not – and will not – ignore purely domestic news. Quite often the early morning news will lead with a story that might also lead Channel Four News or News at Ten. We shall differ in that our news agenda will be of a wider and more international nature than is traditional. What one might describe as “average” British stories – particularly those without much international relevance, would make way for developments in other parts of the world such as Europe, South America and the Far East.



Second contract

Each morning our teams in Washington and Tokyo will put together news packages from their parts of the world leaving the London-based team to concentrate on Britain, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Carol Barnes

Barnes: face of the morning

The news modules will be transmitted on the half hour – 6.30, 7.30 and 8.30. The other programming within the service – business news, arts and entertainment information, a consumer module and a little sprinkling of children’s programming will all be provided by separate independent companies. ITN’s second contract, the sleeve, is to bind all these elements together with regular news bulletins plus weather and travel information and promotional material. It also means we will be taking on the role of transmission controllers, something entirely new to ITN. We have a lot to learn and not much time to learn it.

The sleeve’s constituent parts are news headlines, weather, travel information and promotional material. We will have two minutes of headlines on the hour followed by national weather and travel. At quarter past the hour there will be one minute of headlines followed by weather and travel information aimed at the business traveller (this will be followed by the business news module). On the half hour we have our main news so we will not be doing headlines and at quarter to the hour – again one minute of headlines followed by updated British weather and travel information. In addition there will be promotions for later modules and for Channel Four programmes due for transmission later that day.

Carol Barnes will be the “face” of the news service. She will be on the air every 15 minutes delivering the headlines, and will present the London-based news in our main World News. We will also have a second out-of-vision presenter or, if you like, a continuity announcer who will present the weather, travel and promotional material.

James Mates will present from Tokyo and, for the first two or three months, Mike Nicholson will look after Washington.


Promo image



Our weekend module “International Times” will bring together the best of the week’s coverage from around the world in a style not dissimilar to Radio Four’s From our own Correspondent.

As you will see, this is one heck of a commitment, but one which we are facing with great enthusiasm and excitement. We have put together a talented team of people – a good mixture of youth and experience. At the time of writing a massive amount has been achieved and a lot more remains to be done. But if I dare say it, I’m sure we’ll be alright on the night – make that the morning!


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