TV news to reflect devolution

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The Independent Online
THE BBC unveiled a new-style Six O'Clock News yesterday that is intended to deal with the separate news agendas of post-devolution Britain.

The new bulletin, which will be launched on 10 May and hosted by Huw Edwards, a Welshman, will have separate headlines for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales at the start of the programme, and will have regional "op-outs" from around the country at 6.15pm.

The changes are intended to deal with news from the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies.

At 6.30pm, Mr Edwards will hand over to the regional news rooms around England and the three Celtic nations, who will return to the London studio at 6.55pm for a summary of the national headlines before the end of the programme.

"There has been a metropolitan bias in news coverage in the past," said Mark Popescu, editor of the new Six O'Clock News, yesterday. "And now there are new institutions which we have to take account of. We have to be much more sensitive about the way different stories will play in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales."

There was outrage in Scotland late last year when the BBC's board of governors decided not to give the country its own separate national and international news bulletin at six o'clock.

The changes are also intended to bring in younger viewers and to make the programme more accessible. It will have its own dedicated staff of reporters so that they become familiar to viewers, and the news agenda is to be adapted to take on more consumer stories.

The new-style news will also carry a sports round-up presented by Helen Rollason, the BBC presenter who has been fighting cancer, and for the first time the Six O'clock News will have its own weather forecaster in the studio.

The "virtual" blue set, which has been in use for six years, is to be scrapped for a set that will be "warmer and more inclusive", said Mr Popescu, but the colours and designs are being kept under wraps until the programme's new look has been finalised.

He added: "Research has told us that viewers rate us for trust and authority, but we need to become more relevant, inclusive and warm. But [that] doesn't mean we will dilute the journalism and professionalism of the BBC."