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January 24, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 10:57am

ITV News to hire nearly 30 journalists for new double-length evening bulletin

By Bron Maher

ITV Evening News is set to double in length to become an hour-long programme from March 2022.

The new length will see the programme, which will still be hosted by Mary Nightingale (pictured), take on more news outside London.

ITV News said the double-length programme will lead to the creation of 27 jobs.

The change “is the biggest expansion of jobs within ITV Network News in the past 20 years”, it said, and will see the hiring of reporters, producers, camera operators, and video editors.

Specific appointments will include correspondents in Wales, Scotland, and the north of England, as well as social affairs reporter who will also be based in the north.

Michael Jermey, ITV’s director of news and current affairs, declined to name an exact figure for the size of the new investment, but said it was “several million pounds” atop the £120m a year ITV News already spends.

The new length show covering national and international news will air from 6.30pm until 7.30pm, immediately after the 6pm regional news programme.

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Asked what ITV News would do with the extra half-hour, Jermey said “Quite simply, cover more stories…

“This isn’t going to be a magazine format, it’s not going to be a longer analysis programme… Half our bulletin covers very much the headline stories of the day — pages one and two of the newspapers. In an hour long format, we can cover more stories outside London. We can cover, if you like, pages three and four of a newspaper as well, and I think that there’s an appetite for that from our viewers.”

The new time will see ITV News clash with BBC One’s The One Show, which has a greater lifestyle focus. Jermey denied that ITV Evening News would take on a softer focus to vie against its publicly-funded competitor.

“We’re not looking to make the second half of the show soft,” he said. “We’re looking to make the whole of the show absolutely on the same mainstream agenda as the current evening news.”

The programme will now also clash with the first half of Channel 4 News, which begins at 7pm and lasts for an hour.

Coming after the regional news, the new length Evening News will mean ITV broadcasts an hour and a half of continuous news each weekday evening. Jermey said he did not necessarily expect viewers to tune in for that whole time.

“Not every viewer will stay for the entirety of the programme,” he said. “People come in and out of the news at that time of the evening. But a rolling hour of news we think will be attractive, running into the rest of the schedule in the evening.”

More generally, Jermey struck a defiant note about the staying power of linear television.

“As Mark Twain might have said, the death of linear has been exaggerated…

“If you look at the decade-long picture for ratings, certainly for ours, it’s a great deal more resilient than people would have expected a decade ago. And I suspect what we’re seeing is, the move to digital, and the move to streaming, is there. But I don’t think you’re going to see the death of live television anytime soon.

“And I think it still adds an awful lot to the mix of what’s on offer to viewers.”

According to ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment Kevin Lygo, ITV Evening News reached 35.6m viewers in 2021.

ITV soap Coronation Street will also become hour-long, airing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm. Emmerdale will begin at 7.30pm.

Channel 5 – news for which is, like ITV, produced by ITN – has recently replaced its two half-hour evening news bulletins with a single hour-long one.

ITN said that focus groups had found female audiences were likely to watch only one news programme per day. Approximately 60% of 5 News’s 5pm bulletin’s audience were women, and the channel reasoned that extending the duration would “expand the amount of quality news content targeted directly at them”.

ITV News has enjoyed a run of notable scoops and accolades in recent months, having in December published footage of then-Downing Street spokesperson Allegra Stratton joking about a party that took place in No 10 in December 2020, while lockdown was still in force in the capital.

Then earlier this month ITV News got hold of an email sent by Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, inviting government staff to “socially distanced drinks” in the Downing Street garden. 

Those revelations and others from publications including the Mirror and The Telegraph have precipitated what has widely been referred to as the most wounding crisis of Boris Johnson’s premiership.

ITV News was well-recognised at last month’s British Journalism Awards. Correspondent Robert Moore won the journalist of the year prize for his reporting from the insurrection at the US Capitol, while he and his team Sophie Alexander and Mark Davey also won the foreign affairs journalism accolade for the story.

In addition former ITV News editor Geoff Hill was posthumously awarded the public service journalism award and ITV News London’s Ria Chatterjee won the local journalism prize.

Picture: ITV News

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