BBC claims lead in news war at 10pm

10 O’Clock News: changes planned


Mark Popescu, editor of the BBC’s 10 O’Clock News, plans to boost the programme’s coverage as it emerged narrowly ahead from a six-month ratings battle with ITV’s News at Ten.

Popescu, a former News at Ten editor who moved from the BBC’s 6pm news to the 10pm bulletin shortly after the General Election, plans to increase business coverage and is considering introducing a separate business slot.

He also wants to make the 10 O’Clock News "a showcase for the best BBC journalists" and is in talks with correspondents, such as world affairs editor John Simpson, to discuss ideas for the programme and to ensure they contribute more frequently.

Changes in staffing are also planned and Popescu is discussing with BBC Newsgathering how to ensure enough resources are available throughout the day. But he believes the most pressing need is "improving diversity".

"It’s not acceptable that 85 per cent of reports on the programme are by men," he said. Popescu added that it was more important to have a programme that reflected Britain than "simply chased ratings". The BBC is claiming a narrow victory over ITV after the release of the BARB viewing figures for the six months of the head-to-head battle at 10pm. Throughout the week, an average of 4.9 million viewers watched the BBC bulletin while 4.6 million watched ITV.

But ITV also claims it is ahead. It is required to show its news at 10pm only three nights a week and the average figures for nights when the two bulletins are head to head put ITV in front with 5.2 million viewers compared to the BBC’s 4.9 million.

Importantly for the BBC, news audiences have not fallen. Combined audiences for the same period last year were 8 million, compared to 9.5 million this year. The BBC also claims that since 11 June it has begun to pull ahead, drawing an average weekly audience of 5 million compared to ITV’s 4.3 million on the nights the two bulletins are on at the same time.

Popescu said the BBC’s bulletin was becoming established as the news programme which is always on at 10pm. "We believe we have got a stronger agenda, but the BBC is also reliable — people know when it’s on and I think we are beginning to see that in the figures," he said.

A spokeswoman for ITN, which produces the news for ITV, rejected the claim that the BBC was pulling ahead. "We can pull figures out from that period when we were ahead. All sorts of factors can affect the figures," she said.

By Julie Tomlin

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