An ITN production

Friday, December 23, 2005 by

Well, what better way to while away a Christmas afternoon than by wrapping a few last-minute presents, eating mince pies and watching the ITV News Channel implode.

For most of the afternoon, it was the usual fare, interleaved with remarks from presenters Owen Thomas (“Was it all a big mistake – no, not closing the ITV News Channel, but the London Olympic decision”) and Faye Barker about how much they’d miss the travel jingle, and joshing with the financial guy about him being out on the street, so on.

Then at 5.30pm we got Alistair Stewart reflecting on Five Years of the News Channel, which sounded a bit grim, but actually turned out to be a neat little history of the network, with Stewart Purvis saying that the original plan was to be a CNN Headline News kind of channel, only nobody really wanted that. There was footage from the first bulletin from August 2000, when it went under the ITN banner, and launch presenter Julia Somerville saying she was angry it was going.

It was a refreshingly honest retrospective, everyone admitting that the ratings weren’t good, it never had much money, and it never really got out of bronze medal position. The controller of BBC News 24 even turned up to suggest that having no live news channel might be a problem for ITV next time there’s a huge news event.

There was some good clippage, notably from the 2003 Gulf War and the Beslan siege, and perhaps most compelling of all, John Irvine’s personal account of escaping the tsunami last Christmas. ITN really do still have some of the best news reporters around, whose work has largely been wasted of late, as the management continue to tinker around with the main bulletins (the News at 10.30 goes back to being called the Nightly News, like anybody cares) and spend more time and money on gimmickry.

The News Channel won’t be missed, though. It went-off air halfway through a cheap commercial for blinds. It seems sort of appropriate.


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