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Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Published at 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK


New look for BBC news

Making the news: Peter Sissons prepares for the Nine O'Clock bulletin

The BBC has announced the results of its 18-month review of its news programmes - with major changes in store for its main bulletins.

Nick Higham reports on changes to the man-in-a-suit mentality
Among the changes are a new-look Six O'Clock News, to concentrate on UK reports and stories from around the regions, and a greater emphasis on global reports for the Nine O'Clock News.

The lengthy review has caused much speculation - with rumours that several well-known names could be dumped from the screens after being criticised by groups of viewers in the review.

But the report makes no mention of specific presenters - saying only that changes will be phased in over the next two years.

Biggest research project ever

The review is the biggest research project into news consumption ever undertaken in Britain, covering the BBC's TV, radio and online services.

It used audience research, focus groups, and teams from inside the BBC.

[ image: Edward Stourton and BBC political editor Robin Oakley: More use to be made of
Edward Stourton and BBC political editor Robin Oakley: More use to be made of "trusted guides"
BBC News Chief Executive Tony Hall said: "The overwhelming message was the vote of confidence in BBC News. People expect the very highest quality, and they expect us to do things other broadcasters will not do."

But he acknowledged the report's findings that while the BBC commanded respect, it needed to simplify its language and broaden the range of stories it covers, especially in sport, the arts and "personally useful news" such as education, health and finance.

New look Six O'Clock News

The new look Six O'Clock News will bring together national and regional reports, with a team of dedicated correspondents and background reports on the top story of the day.

The Nine O'Clock will become the "showcase" for foreign reports, with analysis of business and economic developments and "engaging" political coverage. But it will also be "warmer, more inclusive of the viewer, and more in keeping with the character of the network," while keeping "classic BBC values".

Greater use will be made of specialist correspondents - "trusted guides" such as political editor Robin Oakley and foreign affairs editor John Simpson.

Changes for Newsnight

[ image: Anna Ford: Reportedly found
Anna Ford: Reportedly found "snooty" by focus groups
Other changes include business and sport summaries in Newsnight, as well as a news bulletin at 2300. Breakfast News will be relaunched, and the early morning Business Breakfast programme will be axed.

The review comes at same time as the launch of digital television, heralding increased competition among news providers.

The ITV network wants to move its own flagship News At Ten to an early evening slot, while Sky News and CNN have become familiar names to viewers with satellite or cable.

Review causing worries

But the review has caused worries. Nine O'Clock News presenter Peter Sissons recently accused the review of becoming a "beauty contest", which undermined the authority of BBC newsreaders.

Reports suggested experienced presenters like Sissons could be dropped in favour of more 'viewer-friendly' faces.

Focus groups were reportedly asked to rank presenters in terms of "likeability" - with Anna Ford, Edward Stourton, and Breakfast News presenter Justin Webb apparently dubbed "snooty".

But the BBC would not be drawn on their fates.

"We have a galaxy of talented presenters of which we are very proud," said a spokesman.

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