News at Ten should get on its bike

Peter Preston
David Walliams and Rob Brydon on ITV’s news-displacing The Nightly Show. Photograph: Rex Shutterstock

The problem isn’t whether ITV’s The Nightly Show is any good. (Thus far it’s woeful, though the decent ratings and five more weeks of trial and error counsel caution.) The problem is what it does to a News at Ten (now Ten-Thirty) jostling with the end of the BBC news and the beginning of Newsnight at an information spaghetti junction that benefits neither viewers nor newsmakers, as audiences – half of Tom Bradby’s by day two – go missing.

Michael Grade once declared that you can’t be a proper TV channel unless you have news in your armoury. But digital changes such verities fast.

We have rolling news channels 24/7, there at the click of a remote. We have sober world news at seven on BBC4 and bouncy general news at five on Five. We have Jon Snow et al on C4. There’s a new hour of news for Scotland coming down the pike. And the jostling goes on (in part because news itself butters few commercial parsnips: just count the ads on Channel 4 at seven).

No shortage, then. There is lots of news on TV. But it isn’t rethought or reordered for a digital age, the age of constantly shifting sites. If there’s a BBC News Channel for this new age, then surely it needs a lead, not supporting, role. If you want the analysis of Newsnight, then it should rule primetime roosts. Rather than groan over The Nightly Show, make news the evening star of ITV2. Group, develop, concentrate. Click, click …

Oh! I know Ofcom and sundry politicians would have a fit. TV news, as enshrined in the Royal Television Society awards last week, is a great and good enterprise in search of an audience. Tom Bradby is presenter of the year one moment and dumped in a time capsule the next. But clicking back and forth is exactly what the modern monoliths of online expect their users to do. It’s where the future beyond old regulations lies. Finger-work, not arm-wrestling.