Dear Marcus Plantin

You have delayed the start of News at Ten to make room for Cracker. Good move. So how about dumping the programme's sensationalist news values while you're at it?

In our house we're pulling crackers in celebration that, as ITV scheduler, you have agreed to convert News At Ten into News at Ten-Fifteen in order to accommodate a 74-minute episode of Cracker. This is a major breakthrough: until now, only sport and other events relayed live could shake a news bulletin from its fixed time. Your gesture on Cracker's behalf is great for television drama. It also could be great for television news.

Here's how. The major role that news has been obliged to play in the ratings war has led editors to tamper more and more with news values. Instead of genuine information, they seek to hit us with sensation and emotion. So war reporting means footage of blood and bodies on the street, and if such footage is unavailable, the war goes unreported. So a child's murder plays big if grieving relatives can be induced to appear before the cameras pathetically appealing for help in catching the killer, but loses its claim to headline status if the pictures only show police combing patches of wasteground.

It has become an almost nightly occurrence that the newscaster is obliged to assume a solemn expression and announce: "Some viewers may find these pictures disturbing." In our house that is an immediate cue to switch to Northern Exposure. You've seen one dead Serb or one tearful mother, you've seen them all. Who wants to wallow in a tragedy that you can't relieve? Television news is making us unwilling addicts of Schadenfreude.

Take News At Ten out of its end-of-peak slot and it might slowly revert to delivering what it promises: actual news. Its reporters might ease up on those ludicrous vox pops. Who cares a tuppeny damn for the political knee-jerk of passers-by collared on the street outside ITN Towers, people who, with rare exceptions, appear to have been released into the community only recently?

Over many years, both ITN and BBC News pressed for a longer and longer slot for the mid-evening bulletin. Proper reporting and judicious editorial perspective would have justified the extension. But the perceived need to be "sexy" has required the bulletins to be more and more padded with supposed human interest material, with gossip and speculation, and with stories whose significance, shape and thrust is determined purely by the availability of visuals. No wonder disaster is the biggest news of all. The day cannot be far off when a desperate editor contemplates sending a crew to cause a spectacular crash that may be exclusively recorded on hidden cameras.

So the bulletin that will be News at Ten-Fifteen might profitably be scheduled to end as usual at 10.30, thereby requiring the editor of the day to use some unaccustomed discretion and tact in determining the content and style of the reports therein. Who knows, even the ineffably twee and patronising item usually offered under the shrugging subtitle of "And finally ..." might be dumped where it belongs, on GMTV.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk