The reconfiguring of ITV on her watch ensured that by Thursday of last week the Independent Television Commission did not stand a chance of keeping the news at 10pm. To have tried once more to buck the market would have spelt eventual commercial disaster.
The ITC's Sarah Thane told Jeremy Paxman on Thursday night that the regulator believed in ruling with a "light touch" - nice euphemism. Moving ITV's news was a done deal from the outset, and everyone at ITN knew it. The ITC's "review" was mere window-dressing.
The great and the good were against the move, of course; but frankly one always smells a rat when a lot of men in suits campaign against a change in our television. Last time John Major managed to use his premiership to try to temper the effect of Mrs Thatcher's writ by browbeating the regulator into keeping the news where it is. This time the cognoscenti knew it wouldn't work. Today ITV is effectively no longer a public service broadcaster; it is a full-blooded, profit-making commercial entity and, given the regime Mrs T established, has every right to behave as such. Witness what's happened to ITV's schools and children's programming, documentaries, and now the news itself. On Thursday the ITC confirmed as much.
But there's a new spirit abroad in ITV, upstairs from our offices - the guys in charge are younger and know what they want to do. The fat-cat BMWs that carried their forebears away to lunch no longer wait outside. These folk eat in the canteen. It's been fascinating watching the "battle for the soul of television news". These people are not interested in knighthoods or plaudits from politicians; they want to make television that makes people watch and makes big money to boot. Welcome to new Britain!
It is perhaps now time for an honest debate about what's going on in public service broadcasting. After another week, with another raft of new digital channels in the air, what is going to persuade people in the next century that the TV licence is justified? It remains an abiding tax that stings the poor. Why shouldn't the key public service broadcaster, Aunty, carry ads to finance itself? Unmentionable issues ... almost as unmentionable as actively supporting the move of News at Ten inside the ITN building.
But I must admit to backing the move, partly out of self-interest - Channel 4 News can only benefit from the expansion of an early evening "news-watching culture". But there's something more in play. ITN and Channel 4 are investing between them some pounds 10m of new money in rebooting Channel 4 News for lift- off this January - new studio, new technology, new outside broadcast facilities. ITV will be equally determined to make their new 6.30pm news a success. It won't be public service commitments but commercial instincts that ensure ITV reinvests in news. The market dictates that if ITV is to head into the evening with a strong audience share, it'll have to spend, too - on investigative, better produced and presented news than anyone else. But here's the rub: we on the remaining commercial public service channel will give them a run for their money!
MEANWHILE a great week for the Media Trust. We get pounds 417,000 from the Lotteries Board to help charities to make better use of the media. Ask a media operative to come out on a soup run for the homeless and you'll get an odd look. Ask the same person to give two hours of their expertise to help a homeless project with a promotional video, and you get an instant yes. The Trust is about tapping that goodwill, spare production capacity, and the needs of the voluntary sector. It's an endeavour in which the TV companies are playing an unsung part. But, after three years of struggling to get the project rooted, this grant is a massive shot in the arm. Now we can extend the idea out of London and across the UK.
WE ARE in the build-up to the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Friday's word from the UN's Committee on Torture that the UK must prosecute Pinochet under English law if the Lords decide not to extradite him next week is timely. Britain unwillingly stands right on the cusp of a moment that really could affect history. If the UK brings itself to ensure that respect for human rights does indeed transcend all other considerations, the international landscape will indeed have been changed for ever.
The back chat on the red-carpeted corridors is that their Lordships are deeply exercised. Lord "Two Brains" Lenny Hoffman is said to be making the running. There's a whiff of a ru-mour that the Lords will decide the old dictator does not qualify for "sovereign immunity". But the judges will urge that the prevailing political situation in Chile has to be taken into consideration when deciding what to do about him. Thus it will be made easier for Jack Straw to send Pinochet home.
Many feel that Jack's played a blinder in Michael Howard's notorious old shoes. But this will be a big test. Not only because of his decision, but because of the suspicion that the security establishment will allow the general to be aboard his plane, ready on the runway at Brize Norton, as Straw makes his pronouncement. The purpose: to ensure that Pinochet lifts off for Santiago before Amnesty International gets to a judge in chambers for leave to challenge the Home Secretary's decision with a judicial review.
Actually, having spent a lot of time in Chile as a reporter, I'm beginning to think that Pinochet's return to Chile would cause more trouble in his homeland than his remaining here to face a long drawn-out legal fight. One already senses that the old boy's invincibility has begun to subside for supporters and detractors. A few more weeks of legal delay might well serve to reduce the political temperature to the point where Chilean society could cope with a far-off trial.
Jon Snow is presenter of Channel 4 News.Reuse content