'News at Ten' rapped over Major interview

They've all got something on you

News At Ten has been reprimanded by the chairman of the ITC, the independent television watchdog, following an interview with John Major last month, which was attacked by the Labour Party as a "fawning" homage and "little more than a party political broadcast".

Sir George Russell agreed that the interview had been "a little too friendly and relaxed" in a letter to the Labour Party yesterday, although the ITC said that Independent Television News, which produces the bulletin, had not breached the watchdog's code.

The interview was given top billing despite the TWA crash in New York in which 230 people died. Mr Major spoke to Trevor McDonald, the news anchorman, for seven minutes.

At one point, Mr McDonald, who was accused of grovelling, said to the Prime Minister: "I have been reading some of the interviews you have been giving to newspapers recently and what comes over is the extraordinary dedication you have for this job."

He was also attacked by Labour for not probing Mr Major over his record on the economy, tax cuts, Tory splits over Europe or his hopes of re-election. A senior Labour source claimed: "You would not have got an interview as fawning as that on Albanian TV."

In the letter to David Hill, Labour's chief media spokes-man, Sir George said the questions in which Mr McDonald referred to Mr Major's "extraordinary dedication" could be viewed as "inappropriate". He wrote: "We believe that setting exactly the right tone in such situations is something ITN may wish to consider further for the future."

Mr Hill had written to the ITC following the broadcast on 18 July urging an investigation into the Labour Party's formal complaint that News at Ten had "breached the impartiality section of the ITC programme code". He claimed the questioning was not "dispassionate" or "even-handed".

A Labour spokesman said yesterday: "We are delighted that the ITC has agreed with Labour that the tone of Trevor McDonald's interview with the Prime Minister was inappropriate, and are pleased that the ITC has given a commitment to monitor carefully the impartiality of broadcasters in the run-up to the election."

ITN said it welcomed the statement from the ITC that News at Ten had not breached the code on impartiality, and insisted that Mr McDonald was merely acting in a characteristically polite manner.

The suggestion that a deal was made with Downing Street, guaranteeing Mr Major the lead slot in return for the interview, has already been dismissed as "completely untrue" by Stewart Purvis, ITN's chief executive.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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 General

Kinapse: Consultant, Advisory Services, Kinapse Ltd

from £35,000 pa: Kinapse: You will take leadership for discrete workstreams an...

Recruitment Genius: Electrical Engineer / Panel Wireperson

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time position for Nottingh...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Customer Service Advisor

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading boiler ...

Recruitment Genius: Sports Simulator / Home Cinema Installation Technician

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Simulation Tec...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue