Sunday, October 24, 1999 Published at 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
Relaunch for News 24
After almost two years on-air, News 24 - BBC TV's first rolling news channel - is relaunching on Monday 25 October with a new colour scheme and set. The controller of BBC TV news channels, Tim Orchard, talks to News Online about the changes.
We've gone for a more solid and substantial look than the current set which had attracted criticism from viewers. The set has been designed to reflect the enormous amount of material that flows through the channel each day: two monitor walls - in the BBC News colour of China Red - dominate the background. Visual links to the BBC News Online site demonstrate how the services complement each other.
The desk is surrounded by glass panels allowing viewers the opportunity to get a hint of the activity that it takes to keep a refreshed rolling news service on air but without too much distraction.
The message is simple - you still have the TV news programmes from the BBC that you know and trust at set times of the day but it is happening all the time on this channel.
Will the presenters' "look" change too?
We've decided that the male news presenters should put their jackets on when broadcasting. The "shirtsleeves" look has been controversial and we concluded that what people wear shouldn't detract from the main job - presenting the latest news in an authorattive way.
Will there be fresh faces and loss of established ones?
During our two years on air we have seen a number of changes and if circumstances dictate this will continue. But the re-brand is more about reflecting - through the look - the growing authority of the channel's journalism.
What message is the new look designed to convey about News 24?
That it belongs at the heart of the BBC News operation - viewers turning to the channel will instantly recognise the relationship with the flagship bulletins on BBC One. We want to ensure that there is clear recognition that BBC News 24 is from the same stable as the traditional programmes and that the channel gets the respect that its journalism deserves.
Why have you carried out these changes?
The channel has grown impressively in its first two years - but there has been confusion in the minds of some people about its role in relation to the more established BBC News programmes. As more and more people buy into digital television, so the role the channel plays will grow - and we want to ensure that viewers can be confident that BBC TV News is available to them whenever they chose to watch.
We have worked closely with Martin Lambie Nairn and his team - Martin designed the original flag motif for BBC News 24 and was the guiding light behind the recent changes to the BBC One bulletins. Together we have adapted that look to fit the channel's brief.
Are you responding to audience demand?
In some ways, yes. There have been critical comments about the current look and research suggests that some people have been unclear as to why the channel look is so distinct from the rest of news. But we, too, are clear that - like jackets - if people are talking too much about the set and look they're not being allowed to concentrate on the first-class news service we provide.
Will the new look be reflected in a change in the content and style of your programming?
Throughout this year, we have been looking at what we offer each hour - we've done research which points to trends in the way people watch us. So earlier in the summer we amended the hourly line-up to better reflect the needs of the audience. The re-design will reinforce this but essentially the work done in the summer will continue.
News 24's audience figures have improved in recent months, how do you think the changes will affect this upturn?
We're watched by around five and a half million viewers a week - that's a pretty decent start but we have ambitions for that to grow. The channel is available in just under three million cable homes and now, we believe, in around two million "digital" homes. So as the number of households who can receive us grows, we have to be out there fighting for their attention. There is so much choice in multi-channel homes that audiences will always be lower than on traditional terrestrial networks: our task is to persuade people with lots of choice that, however and whenever they want news, it is to the BBC that they turn.
Can you see the channel undergoing frequent revamps in future?
No. This change, two years in, reflects and underlines the growing importance of the channel and we will now seek to consolidate and grow around our current editorial backed by a clean, and contemporary look.
What do you hope for the future of News 24?
That its early reputation - long since unfair - gives way to a recognition that the BBC's continuous news channel is where people turn to for breaking news and when their lifestyle dictates that they can't meet the fixed points that news occupies in the BBC One schedule. It's good, will get better and, unquestionably, will become a bigger part of people's lives.
TV and Radio