First Night ITV Evening News: News goes graphic, with a flash of Trevor's trousers

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The Independent Online
EVER SINCE Kirsty Young came out from behind her desk on Channel 5 news, other television news operations have been worrying that they look too stuffy and formal - hence the uncomfortable sight of Jon Snow and Kirsty Lang on Channel 4 news lounging awkwardly in armchairs and wondering what to do with their hands.

With the revamping of ITV's news operation - "A new era for ITV", as the continuity announcer modestly put it - it was a fair bet that we would be getting something a little more relaxed, a little less starched: Trevor McDonald perched on a barstool, sipping a Scotch and drawing on a tab, or with Val Doonican-style jumper.

In fact, Trevor did come out from behind the desk, but only for a few seconds after the commercial break, to introduce a story about teenage girls smoking: a tantalising flash of trouser rather than the Full Monty. It was left to the ITN economics correspondent to step out and perform a dainty pas de deux with a computerised image of the Chancellor's red box as it scooted around the screen - this was apparently intended as a way of taking the viewer's mind off what she had to say about today's Budget.

Otherwise, the innovations consisted of a new, more spacious look to the studio, and rotating computer graphics, with the kind of rotating globe that the satirical TV programme The Day Today poked fun at.

Mostly, though, it was business as usual: still starting with the bongs, though not as many of them, obviously, and still ending with "And Finally". In between, there was an attempt to create a sense of occasion, with an exclusive interview with Gordon Brown.

And, scoop, the first pictures of the failed British round-the-world balloon attempt crashing into the Pacific. The adventuring theme continued with the "And Finally", which had David Hempleman-Adams preparing to walk, unaided, to the magnetic North Pole.

All in all, as new eras in broadcasting go, this one looked very safe and very dull.

The 11 o'clock Nightly News bulletin was shorter but far meatier, helped by a couple of late-breaking stories - Michael Howard's departure from the front benches, movement on the Kosovo negotiations. But stories which had broken far earlier in the day also got more of a look in - breast implants, genetically modified foods - and some of those tackled at 6.30 had a far higher ratio of information to conjecture.

One new feature was a flip through the morning's front pages - which suggests that ITN sees itself as being competition with Newsnight. The conciseness and seriousness of this bulletin just emphasised how lightweight the new 6.30 news is. Viewers who want to know what is going on in the world are just going to have to stay up later - that, or switch to the BBC or the satellite channels.