Regional News Programmes 

4 September 2023 tbs.pm/76834

 

Television & Radio 1982 cover

From Television & Radio 1982

In addition to the national news service, each ITV company has its own local news and news magazine. These programmes are presented at 1.20 p.m. and 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday and most companies also provide local news after News at Ten.

Looking at the regional news programmes of three very different areas of the ITV system

Yorkshire, Northern Ireland and Wales and West of England – these pages show the individual style and approach of the local company in meeting the special needs of its audience.

Yorkshire – Pursuing a Goal

When satellite communications have shrunk the planet Earth to a global village, the local programme must pension off its foot messengers, and get in the race to provide the viewer with the best possible service. It can no longer claim novelty value; it can no longer stand aside from the competition for news; it can no longer hope to ignore the challenge of local radio. The audience has to be won – and held.

The magazine format of the early years, with its regular items on gardening and gadgets, hobbies and hobbyhorses, fashion and folklore, has exhausted its appeal. The viewing public has had its expectations raised, and satisfied, at national level by ITN’s pace-setting standards and want to see similar qualities in regional programmes.

 

Two men stand behind railings draped with a YTV banner

Calendar Calling. A special section of Yorkshire’s news programme is transmitted to and designed for viewers served by the IBA’s Belmont transmitter in Lincolnshire. Items included seek to reflect the particular interests of viewers in that area. Yorkshire

 

Today’s viewer expects to see the action, and to hear details of events in his home area from skilful and credible journalists at the earliest opportunity. Programmes like Yorkshire Television’s Calendar are pursuing that goal with visible success. More than two-thirds of the region’s viewers switch on every night – that’s anything up to three million.

Calendar has the services of film crews and reporters in six different areas West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, North Humberside, South Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Norfolk. Programme Editor Graham Ironside says, ‘We can only provide the professional, up-to-the-minute service the viewer expects by being on the spot. We can beat newspaper deadlines now – and, when the development of ENG is complete, we shall be able to beat radio deadlines too.’

The job of the regional news programme remains the same. It must inform and entertain, it must mirror its region’s special character and it must provide a window to the outside world.

Ulster Television – and News

Northern Ireland has been called the ‘hottest news beat in Western Europe’. It wasn’t always so.

The present highly experienced news team at Ulster Television is the end-product of 21 years of learning and experimenting, introducing new techniques and ideas … and the sheer hard graft of facing and overcoming the pitfalls and dangers inherent in covering modern-day urban guerrilla warfare.

The first daily news service started in 1962 – but on 5th October 1968 violence erupted on the streets of Londonderry and was flashed to millions of television screens throughout the world. It was a curtain-raiser to the events of the following years. And so violence has dominated the news for the past thirteen years.

In the early days the visual impact of the ‘news as it happened’, plus the immediacy of reporting events literally only minutes old, offered newsmen a journalistic minefield. The urge to be ‘first’ had to be tempered with the thought that early reports of incidents could change – and very often did.

 

A man sits at a desk, conferring with a woman stood next to him

Good Evening Ulster. Newsreader Brian Baird clears up a point with floor manager Anne McClelland during a rehearsal. Ulster

 

More difficult to deal with throughout was the frequent fiery film interview. Good television, yes – but could those words, uttered in the heat of the moment, spark off retaliatory action on the streets?

The past years have linked ITN more closely with Ulster Television than with any other regional newsroom and there has been an almost permanent presence of ITN reporters, editors, and cameramen in the Havelock House studios in Belfast.

Over the past ten years Ulster Television’s news-based programmes have expanded considerably, with major coverage in Lunchtime, Ulster News, Good Evening Ulster in the peak viewing 6-7 p.m. slot, and at close-down, Bedtime, and with frequent headline bulletins seven days a week. There has been the conscious effort to reflect the normality of life in Northern Ireland as well as its more unpleasant aspects.

It is interesting to note a comment from Patrick Campbell in Television Today’: ‘Faced with the problems that ITV as a whole has had to endure, Ulster has borne the extra burden of having to walk constantly on a knife-edge of impartiality in a situation where one mistake of judgement could result not in angry letters to the Irish newspapers, but in the loss of human life and the destruction of property.’

HTV’s Complex News Operation

Head and shoulders shot of a man

Report West. Political correspondent Peter Carver keeps the West Country in touch with Westminster on the nightly regional news programme. HTV

Someone shrewdly described the news magazine as the flagship of a regional company’s output. It is a fair analogy. No other programme reflects more expressively the style and the character of a community, or makes such testing demands upon those who daily shoulder the burdens of its creation.

Three teams of journalists are employed by HTV; twelve staff film units; plus freelance teams. There are 22 film cutting rooms, three dubbing theatres and two processing laboratories.

Unique in the system, the company presents, from studios in England and Wales, three highly individual news magazines on five nights of the week: one in Welsh Y Dydd; one in English for the majority of Welsh viewers Report Wales; and yet another for a very different community in the West of England Report West.

It is an operation of considerable complexity, and serves areas essentially disparate.

It works well. Well enough indeed to ensure that HTV wins the nightly ratings battle and earns gratifying viewer loyalty. From time to time the programmes do something more. They win awards.

The latest was the 1981 Royal Television Society’s News Film of the Year accolade for Report West‘s coverage of the riots that for one night transformed St. Paul’s, Bristol, into a blazing ‘no-go’ zone. This was another of these stories that, awkwardly, began to build just as any hard-pressed news department might legitimately be heading home. A team went instead into a riot that put some of its members into hospital and wrecked cameras and equipment.

On a gentler, more rewarding note, it was this same programme that successfully pioneered the first sign-language transmission for the deaf now a permanent feature of each edition of Report West.

 

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