Rolling news spins, repeats, goes live, goes on...

On The Press

The ITV News Channel is closing. Media management is no better than any other at plain English, so those ending its life said the reason was to "increase the network's focus on developing new media solutions and strengthening ITV1's news offering". Happily, we haven't space to deconstruct this management gobbledegook.

So farewell, ITV's contribution to rolling news, live news, 24-hour news, all news all the time. Statistically, it will not be missed. Like its UK rivals, Sky News and BBC News 24, it was available only to digital multi-channel households. The audience measurement firm BARB reckons about 2.6 million people tuned in each week for an average of two minutes. Sky and BBC draw about 4.8 million and 5.1 million respectively for an average of nine minutes a week. To put that in perspective, traditional early-evening news programmes on BBC1 and ITV draw audiences of between 4.5 million and five million each day.

What do we get? Take last Thursday on the three channels. The stories that day were the Iraq elections, the start of the EU summit, Roy Keane signing for Celtic, the verdict in the Chelsea millionaire murder trial and further investigations into the Durham doctor cleared of murdering three elderly men.

All these stories rolled along the rolling news, with developments and new stories joining in: England trounced in Karachi cricket match, Liverpool win in Japan, planet warms up half a degree. Excitement - or breaking news as we think of it, or News Alert as Sky thinks of it - at 5.15pm as all channels report a second man charged over the Bradford policewoman murder.

The channels varied only in their non-mainstream stories, and then not much. By Friday morning, when I checked that all was rolling well in the world where news never stops, I found reports on the EU summit, the Durham doctor, the Chelsea millionaire murder trial verdict, second arrest in the Bradford policewoman murder ... it all seemed somehow familiar.

When a story is truly huge, once or twice a year at most, like 7 July, 11 September, or even, at a lower level, the oil-storage fire or a new Tory leader, we want more coverage than normal, and rolling 24-hour news provides it. But then we used to have extended news and news interruptions to scheduled programmes before there was rolling news; and now "ordinary" channels tap into rolling news when there is a big breaker.

So what is 24-hour rolling news for? It is useful for airport lounges. It is useful for hotel bedrooms. It is useful for those of us obsessed with news to update when we want to, without having to wait for the scheduled bulletin. But I find internet news more convenient for that, as it is for providing full texts of speeches, full details of reports. Don't run away with the idea that all news all the time means any more depth; it doesn't.

The downside of rolling news is that it confuses constant availability of news, so-called "live news", with comprehensive news. Radio and internet news, also always available, have been selected and ordered by the news provider. Live news presumes that stories are continuous and that we want to sit watching them all unfold, however slowly.

The defining word is "live". Live means we "go live to", which means we interrupt what we are doing. Were we to finish it instead and then go not quite live (I have become a great fan of the Sky+ recorder, which allows time-shifting as well) to the interview, what would we lose?

But "as it happens" is all, and is the justification for three, soon to be two, 24-hour news channels. It doesn't provide more news: it spins it out, repeats it, adds spurious or inconsequential extra information. And worst, through "going live" to reporters with nothing to add, it encourages interpretation or comment.

The funniest programme of the autumn has been Broken News on BBC2. Only because its send-up of breaking news, the intensity of its triviality, its concentration on timing (live) rather than content, on moving subtitles to indicate news is breaking as we watch, on breathless pace and shifts of scene, are so worryingly realistic.

Additional research by Nick Rogers

Peter Cole is professor of journalism at the University of Sheffield

Life and Style
Social media users in Mexico who commented on cartel violence have been killed in the past
techTweets not showing up or loading this morning, users say
Sport
premier leagueLive: All the latest news and scores from today's matches
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Business Development Manager Content/Subscriptions

£50k + commission: Savvy Media Ltd: Great opportunity to work for a team that ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker