From early in the new year, the nightly news bulletin will be broadcast at 6.30pm, a shift which leaves the way clear for uninterrupted drama and films after the 9pm watershed.
Although the network has not yet revealed scheduling details, the early beneficiaries of the changes are likely to be Walking on the Moon, a harrowing and occasionally graphic story of school bullying from the maker of the controversial film No Child Of Mine, and a dramatisation of the Stephen Lawrence story.
Films such as Goldeneye, Dangerous Minds and the Bridges of Madison County will also be free to run after 9pm without the inconvenience of a 40 minute interruption for the news.
As for the news itself, the 6.30pm edition will feature not only Trevor McDonald in the role of anchor but also Big Ben, the bongs and the "and finally" segment beloved of the current 10pm broadcast.
"The decision on News at Ten was a matter that had to be resolved," said Mr McDonald when asked about his feelings on the move. "It had been hanging over us for long enough. The important thing now is to look forward to making the new programme the best news programme on television."
The new slot will put the veteran presenter in more direct competition with the BBC's Six O'Clock News, a prospect to which, he said, he was looking forward. "Television has always been a hotbed of confrontation. So there's no change there."
Mr McDonald will also appear in a weekly, hour-long current affairs magazine alongside Martin Bashir, the man known chiefly for his Panorama interviews with Diana, Princess of Wales, and Louise Woodward.
The remainder of ITV's winter programming has a familiar look with the return of Kavanagh QC, Peak Practice and, after a two year absence, David Jason in a Touch of Frost. Other new drama includes The Vice and Juliet Stevenson in an adaptation of Laurie Lee's Cider With Rosie.
Television's continuing preoccupation with docu-soaps continues as traffic wardens, emergency medicine, police stations and air travel come into the camera's field of vision in Parking Wars, Trauma Team, Cop Shop and Airline.
The "from Hell" genre also receives further examination in Christmases From Hell, Garages From Hell and Neighbours From Hell.
t The furore in Scotland over the BBC's refusal to grant the country its own national news programme intensified yesterday when a leaked BBC document showed that only 1 per cent of the current Six O'Clock News' stories are from Scotland, writes Paul McCann.
Research into the bulletin's news content in March showed that only three out of 280 items were from or about Scotland.
The leak is a sign of the revolt within BBC Scotland about the issue. Staff are angry at the BBC governors' decision last week not to approve a Scottish Six when the Scottish Parliament opens next year.
The leaked report states: "During March 1998 the Six included the same number of items about the BBC itself (3) that it took from Scotland. The Six did not cover either of that month's annual Scottish Labour or Liberal Democrat Party Conferences."
It adds: "Not a single Scottish Business story was covered in a month when the Royal Bank of Scotland failed in a takeover bid for an English building society."
The BBC said it would not comment on leaked research.Reuse content