Letter: ITN is popular not populist

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The Independent Online
YOUR article 'News at Ten takes a tabloid turn . . .' (22 May) was flawed in two respects. First, your survey related to the content of the ITN news at 5.40 and not the News at Ten. Second, you reported a 'shift in news priorities' but produced no evidence to support the claim.

The Independent Television Commission was asked about your allegations of 'tabloidisation' and rejected your claim, taking the opportunity to praise ITN's coverage.

For a form of journalism so committed to impartiality and objectivity, television news has more than its fair share of myths.

Myth Number One: more affluent ABC1 viewers prefer to watch the BBC's Nine O'Clock News rather than ITN's News at Ten. In fact, for the first four months of this year News at Ten had an average of 2.8 million ABC1 viewers; the Nine O'Clock News had 2.7 million. The ITN ABC1 audience went up; the BBC's went down.

Myth Number Two: audiences for news on commercial television are going down. In fact, the audiences for ITN's Lunchtime News and News at Ten are up.

Myth Number Three: when big news breaks people turn to the BBC. In fact, during the live coverage following the announcement of the death of John Smith, ITV's share of the audience between 10.30am and 11.45am was above the average recorded by This Morning so far in 1994 and was double that recorded by the BBC.

Myth Number Four: as more people buy satellite dishes they will turn to all-news channels for their news. In fact, in homes which can receive cable or satellite transmissions the News at Ten audience has increased by 11 per cent and Sky News' weekday peak audience is falling.

Stewart Purvis

ITN Editor-in-chief

London WC1