Here is the BBC news, and this is audience research dictating it

THE BBC is to revamp all its main news and current affairs programmes from the evening bulletins to Newsnight, as well as Question Time and Panorama. After completing "the biggest research project into news consumption ever undertaken", the corporation has decided to increase both its emphasis on high-minded, serious journalism, and "personally useful news".

At the high-brow end of the agenda, 50 per cent of a restyled Nine O'Clock News will be devoted to foreign coverage. Tony Hall, the director of news and current affairs who has overseen the project, said yesterday that audiences gave enormous support to the fact that the BBC has retained 50 foreign bureaux around the world, while its main rivals CNN and ITN have only 32 and 50 respectively.

The danger in the new emphasis on foreign news is the real risk that audiences may switch off.

But Mr Hall says that "the challenge is to engage as many people as we can in a serious-minded agenda. To engage everyone in things that matter."

At the popular end, a new Six O'Clock News will have a much greater emphasis on regional stories, and aim to "reflect the diversity of the UK in a way that no other single broadcaster can match".

The overall aim is to make each of the BBC outlets more distinctive in the way it delivers news - a priority as the digital age dawns and competition becomes more intense.

Despite the size of the overhaul, however, there is to be no increase in the size of the BBC's news budget.

Question Time will retain David Dimbleby as presenter, but will go interactive - taking audience opinions by e-mail. Newsnight is to be relaunched and will incorporate an 11pm news bulletin.

Panorama is to be given a brief to do more long-term investigative journalism, an activity that has become rare in many other news outlets.

There will be more room on news programmes for "intelligent coverage" of topics such as fashion, popular culture and consumer affairs - a development which Mr Hall denies is "dumbing down", but instead shows a willingness to embrace aspects of the "new economy". Business journalism will be moved to the mainstream of coverage, instead of being sidelined to particular strands, such as the current Business Breakfast, which is to be axed.

A new weekly current affairs programme is to be commissioned to replace Here and Now, a mid-week show with a popular agenda that has undergone various changes in format, but has never actually taken off.

The new show will be produced out of Manchester for a non-metropolitan perspective, and will be a challenge for the new head of weekly programmes, Helen Boaden. She inherits a long history of failure to recreate the upbeat, regions-based success of Nationwide.

Tony Hall also said yesterday that a major new analysis programme will be commissioned for BBC2, which will aim to take the approach of Radio 4's Analysis and make it work on television. The BBC has made various attempts to do this in the past and, without exception, audiences have been low.

Mr Hall says that unlike some of the previous efforts, the new programme will not be a cheap studio discussion, but will use more expensive film and graphics to explore ideas on screen. "It's got to have a good budget," he confirms.

The programme is, again, a challenge for Ms Boaden.

Other new projects include a show looking at Europe, as well as a "news for schools" online service, intended to inculcate the BBC brand, and the idea that you can trust BBC news, into young people.

The new approach raises some difficult issues. On foreign coverage, for instance, the BBC says that it will build audiences by making foreign stories relevant to everyday British lives.

But some foreign news does not lend itself to that. Reporting on Somalia, Bangladesh or Kosovo does not, for example, usually have any direct link to the lives of the middle-class viewers in Croydon.

Leading article,

page 3, Review





Martyn Lewis


Peter Sissons


Martin Bashir


David Dimbleby


Jeremy Paxman


Juliet Morris


Sara Coburn



A sort of friendlier, lighter version of the Nine O'clock news, often fronted by "good news" presenter Martyn Lewis. Has a feel of Middle England about it.

A cut-glass logo and sombre studio give the impression that this is the UK's most serious news, and the viewers had better sit up and take notice.

Flagship current affairs

programme which, in recent years has become increasingly focused on stories which explore a thesis about society - for instance, do single mothers get pregnant in order to claim benefits?

Decades-old format of David Dimbleby, a panel of three politicians, a token businesswoman and a

respectful studio audience.

Nightly opportunity to watch our politicians and

policy-makers being grilled by a tiger of an interviewer. Best is Jeremy Paxman, then Kirsty Wark, everyone else seems to be "training" to do it properly

In its most recent format, Here and Now is a weekly early evening studio

discussion programme that has Juliet Morris doing a fair impression of Robert Kilroy Silk.

Sends junior reporters off to shopping centres and

businesses from Newcastle to Portsmouth, to report on the state of British business.



The new emphasis on "personally useful news" will mean lots more regional stories at six oclock. From time to time, the entire programme will be based at the scene of a domestic story - for instance at the opening of the Scottish parliament. Specialists from regional newsrooms will be prominent, for instance, the crime correspondent in Norwich, who rarely makes an appearance on national

television at the moment, will get a much better airing.

The presentation is to be "warmer and more inclusive of the viewer", whilst the content becomes more "serious". A commitment to devoting half the programme to foreign coverage while other news organisations are busy closing bureaux around the world is brave. A victory for World Affairs editor John Simpson. More emphasis on explaining why Mr Greenspan's quarter percentage point cut in American interest rates affects the average British mortgage holder.

There is a strong re-emphasis on the "stories that affect our lives", which might raise fears of fewer important foreign programmes, such as Fergal Keane's investigations of genocide in Rwanda - which were first class journalism, but won pitiful audience figures. The top brass, though, say they want to see Panorama doing more "serious investigations" and that they will be given "appropriate budgets" for the purpose. Tony Hall says Panorama will not be moved from its current 10pm Monday slot.

The BBC says audiences want the programme to be fresher and more modern. It will turn it into a more interactive discussion programme with opportunities for people to contribute from home,

initially by e-mail. Recently at a BBC digital high-tech demonstration a Question Time of the future was shown, with audiences at home voting on issues by pointing their zappers at the television. Still David


Heart-warmingly, the BBC

describes Newsnight as "the cornerstone" of BBC2's journalism - and it is to receive a major boost. A new structure, with a news and sports bulleting at 11pm, and a new Saturday edition. The specialist content of the programme will be strengthened and "guest correspondents" will be invited to give "fresh and

surprising" perspectives to news events. Jeremy Paxman remains.

The programme is to be

abolished after a pretty

dismal history. In its early days it tried an American

approach with glamourous young reporters investigating stories "which affect ordinary people". It didn't work well. The BBC will now commission a new weekly presenter-led programme produced in Manchester, which "will leave viewers feeling positive - not disempowered". Brainstorming sessions are already under way in BBC offices to determine its exact format.

It is to go. Business

journalists will go to a new economics and business unit, while Breakfast News overall will get a revamp, with a bulletin every 15 minutes. After 8.15 the programme, says the BBC, will adopt a different pace and feel for the audience staying at home. There will be "personally useful" strands on subjects such as health, money, food and technology, plus regular audience interaction and a

regional showcase.



Every five years the BBC tries to re-create Nationwide's success in making the regions exciting nationally. It usually fails, and is likely to do so again. Unless, that is, Jill Dando can save the day.

The emphasis on foreign news is a triumph for serious journalism. The big question is - will the BBC stick with the policy if audiences revert to their usual tendency to switch to another channel when the news is about "abroad"?

The "investigations"

commitment is good news. But overall, the programme looks a little old- fashioned, and is in sore need of a facelift.

Interactivity is great. The problem is those panels. They give the impression of, somehow, being always the same people.

Yes, for the time being. The big threat to Newsnight comes from Network Television, which would like to move it to a later slot. John Birt has resisted the pressure, but will the next director general be as tough?

Here and Now had exactly the same brief, and failed. Maybe the new version, like the six o'clock news, is in need of Jill Dando.

There must surely be an

audience for a programme that does not feature wacky DJ types such as Denise Van

Outen or Chris Evans. It has a chance.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksNow available in paperback
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
Life and Style

The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
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

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Ceiling and Flooring - £26,000 OTE

£26000 per annum + pension + career progression: h2 Recruit Ltd: An excellent ...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - Credit Reports - £100,000 OTE

£50000 - £100000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Meetings & Events (MICE) - £40,000 OTE

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achieving...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Manager -Business Intelligence Software- £100,000 OTE

£50000 - £100000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game