Head to head
Good luck to ITN on the revival of News at Ten. The return of the famous bongs is a stimulating, if scary one, for the BBC. But it's scary in a good way. Since ITN gave up the News at Ten slot the BBC has consistently outperformed the late evening news on ITN. I don't think it's good for us, or the viewer, to be that dominant - strong competition is good for everyone. Putting the two bulletins head to head will keep all of us on our toes, which is good for both the BBC and ITN, and for audiences.
One of the things that we'll be watching out for is the extent to which this new choice changes viewers' behaviour. We know that some viewers have a preference for one brand over another, and will choose their preferred broadcaster no matter what the schedule. But equally, we know that the schedule determines the choice for a large number of people. Since News at Ten finished, we have seen that quite a significant number of ITV viewers switch over at 2200 to get their news from the BBC. We'll be keen to see if they continue to do that following the return of News at Ten.
It's interesting that ITV have made the decision to bring back News at Ten for commercial reasons - not because they've been ordered to by the regulator Ofcom. It proves that, despite what some have argued in the past, it's not necessarily the case that news will wither and die in a commercial broadcasting environment.
Of course, News at Ten is coming back into a broadcasting climate that's much changed from the one it left behind. I've talked before on this blog about our efforts to make BBC News a truly multi-platform operation, and we see the benefit of that on a daily basis - including on our coverage of recent big stories, such as the death of Benazir Bhutto, the violence in Kenya, and a range of domestic items. It's a balancing act, but we're committed to making sure that the key qualities of BBC News - for example, specialist understanding and analysis - are particularly focused on the Ten O'Clock News. People are now getting news from a range of sources throughout the day, so it's more important than ever that our key news service, at the end of each day, provides them with depth, and a range of understanding, that complements the information that they've picked up elsewhere.
Will there be a difference between the two bulletins? I'm sure we'll compete head to head on the main stories of the day. And there there will be a tussle over exclusive stories. But an inkling of potential differences might be found in a remark by an ITN senior executive, Deborah Turness. She said News at Ten's "And finally…" item should have this effect, "'We want people go to bed with a smile on their face or a tear in their eye". I'd prefer to say that the BBC's News is all made to make you think.