The News at Ten, an ITV institution that for years was dubbed "News at When" after straying from its traditional start-time, is set to make a glittering come-back, with Sir Trevor McDonald coming out of retirement as its main presenter.
The old formula's resurrection will come as an overdue relief to its former viewers, thrown into confusion since 1999, when the commercial network moved the bulletin to 11pm after persuading the then regulatory body, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), to allow it to show films and sport in the prime time slot.
ITN, news providers to ITV, would often then be forced to broadcast the flagship programme later than scheduled. By the time ITV had again moved the bulletin, to 10pm earlier in the week and 11pm from Thursdays, it was suffering a ratings slide. In 2003, the shorter News at Ten was axed once more and switched to 10.30pm from 2004.
The following year, Sir Trevor retired, ending the bulletin with his catchphrase "and finally" apparently for the last time in December 2005. That he has been lured back at the age of 68 makes up part of a considerable coup for Michael Grade, the ITV executive chairman, who is fighting off a stream of negative headlines over phone-in scandals at the network.
The former BBC chairman has also poached a key Sky News anchor, Julie Etchingham, to co-present the news alongside the much-loved veteran Sir Trevor for the programme's relaunch, expected next year.
The Independent has learned that John Ryley, the head of Sky News, sent an e-mail to staff late last week announcing the "sad" news that Ms Etchingham was to leave in January. This was swiftly followed by a more upbeat message, announcing the appointment of Dermot Murnaghan from the BBC as the new presenter of its weekday news programme, Sky News Today.
It is now clear that Mr Murnaghan was brought in to replace Ms Etchingham.
News at Ten was launched in 1967 and thereafter became something of a national institution. But during the recent uncertainty over its time-slot, the BBC was able to move its own night-time news bulletin from 9pm to 10pm, at once taking up the renowned slot and freeing up some crucial primetime for BBC One.
ITV was unavailable for comment last night but sources close to Grade, who moved to ITV at the beginning of the year, said that since taking over he has regarded "redressing" the night-time news scheduling "problem" as a priority.
In March, Grade said: "It was a shocking mistake to move News at Ten – it damaged ITV more than anything. How we put that right we shall see. It's a highly competitive environment and the effect of any changes is dissipated by advance notice."Reuse content