Bong ... will News at Ten move to eleven? Bong ... will viewers protest? And finally ... will Trevor stay?

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The Independent Online
AND FINALLY ... are the bongs about to toll for Trevor McDonald? The future of Britain's Mr Nice Newscaster looks suddenly uncertain amid fresh reports that News at Ten may be moved way past bedtime, writes Jack O'Sullivan. That once grand institution, it is rumoured, faces demotion to News at Eleven, after the big film and clashing with Newsnight on BBC2.

Those who brew their Horlicks in time for McDonald's closing quip would mourn such a move. Not least because Trinidad's most famous son could also prove a casualty. After all, could Trevor any longer resist the lucrative temptations of newsreading for Sky in the face of such humiliation? And would ITN executives want him in any case to keep the late slot? For, over on Channel 5, the fresh-faced, award-winning young pretender Kirsty Young is proving a great crowd-puller. Most important, she has newscast a spell over devoted young males, who love her sassy mix of Anna Ford and Selina Scott, delivering the latest disaster story in unhurried husky tones. Every advertiser has those well-heeled guys as their chief target. And no one doubts which newsreader is best-placed to keep the blokes up late at night. Given ITV's obsession with winning eyeballs for advertisers, radical change is on the agenda.

So, all in all, Trevor's microphone may be on a shaky nail. Nevertheless, at 58, he has had a good innings: on the spot for the fall of the Berlin Wall, he was first to interview Nelson Mandela after his release. And he was famously invited in for a one-to-one with Saddam Hussein while Kuwait's sand was still fresh between the dictator's toes. Hugely respected for his immaculate presentation and professionalism, he symbolises the charms of a lost past: honesty, integrity, politeness. Benign neutrality and the perfect grammar of his deracinated English are his trade marks. He is to white Middle Britain the acceptable face of black immigration.

So the Bufton Tufton tendency at the Daily Telegraph has no problem accepting a weekly column from him. And a man who once dubbed himself "a West Indian peasant" is at ease advising Blimpish readers on which are the finest poems in the English language. As chair of the Better English Campaign, he has even taken his crusade to a political level. It's a charming style which has served many purposes, not least conferring respectability on the dumbing down of ITN news, which has increasingly shifted to tabloidesque coverage.

McDonald's fascination with the media began in Trinidad, where he was born the son of an oil refinery worker, who supplemented his small income by raising pigs. His father wanted him to be a doctor, or an engineer, or Gary Sobers. Instead, picking up his familiar sombre tones by listening to the BBC at home, he joined the World Service in 1969, going on to be a reporter, diplomatic correspondent and newscaster for BBC, ITN and Channel 4 News. Already holder of an OBE, he would be an odds-on favourite for a knighthood had the Tories clung to power. John Major - who shares McDonald's passion for cricket - was a great fan and fought previous attempts to alter News at Ten's scheduling. The ex-PM will remember McDonald's sugary interview with him which Labour politicians condemned as "fawning".

The nation loves this man who pays them the compliment of being more British than themselves. But a vestige of a golden age can quickly look like a relic - especially with Kirsty Young looking over his shoulder.


McDonald is subject to many unusual requests. Perhaps the most bizarre one came from a consultant physician who wanted the newscaster to send a message of encouragement to his group of incontinent female patients. The ladies had been asked to think of someone they admired when doing their exercises. This resulted in the call to "Tighten for Trevor".


His worst moment on screen was when John McCarthy was released, an event which turned into a farce for the ITN team. McCarthy's plane landed during the commercial break and McDonald was, in any case, lost for words during the event. But the most embarrassing aspect was that he announced that the RAC, not the RAF, had flown the freed hostage back to Britain.


McDonald is famed for his calm demeanour, but this quality deserts him when he discusses cricket. After the West Indies were forced by a poor pitch to abandon their January Test with England in Jamaica, this usually moderate journalist declared that West Indian cricket had been reduced to farce. "For sometime," he said, "it's been surviving solely on memories of a glorious past.

``Today it is in danger of foundering in a morass of official short-sightedness, indifference and incompetence."