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Tuesday, March 9, 1999 Published at 05:59 GMT


Was it clever, Trevor?

By BBC News Online's Giles Wilson

It was not an easy birth for ITV's new Evening News.

All sorts of folk were standing around the hospital bed, warning that whatever the new arrival was like, it was going to be bad news for everyone. It was, they foretold, an omen of things to come.

But there is one person at least who is certain to be telling everyone what a great new show it is.

That person is Gordon Brown. Who knows, he may even agree to be the new-born's god-parent.

For while it might have looked and sounded as if the bulletin had a leak from Mr Brown's impending budget, the top headline Trevor McDonald actually read was:

"In an exclusive interview for the ITV Evening News, Mr Brown said he wants to create a better deal for work, for enterprise, and for families."

Well, hold the front pages! In a budget that seems to have no big stories in it, this was certainly no big story.

But it was accompanied by a look inside Mr Brown's private office, some friendly chat between Mr Brown and ITN's political editor Michael Brunson, and the further revelations that Mr Brown now has two computers, one of which is connected to the Internet.

The other is connected to "a big screen".

Influential friends

The influence of Channel 5's news, also produced by ITN, has also been felt, as it has by most other news programmes on television.

[ image: Dermot Murnaghan, to present the new 11pm bulletin]
Dermot Murnaghan, to present the new 11pm bulletin
So a business correspondent wandered around the multi-coloured set, dodging moving graphics which the unwary might have feared would squash her. At one stage a graph bizarrely cut her off at the knees.

A word about colours. Someone must write a thesis about the sudden blossoming of colours into television newsrooms. What does Newsnight's teal signify? What atmosphere does 5 News create with its bright primary colours?

And even if they can work that out, can they really understand what is behind the ITV Evening News's deep blue, purple, red and orange?

Thankfully for ITN, its 32 years of producing News at Ten has made it into a professional, finely honed unit. This launch may have lacked the killer punch, but it was as smooth as Trevor McDonald himself.

Just as it has carried the bongs of Big Ben into the new show, and its 'And Finally' trademark, the new bulletin brings considerable talent with it.

Bill Neely's report on fighting from Kosovo, and a report trailed for tomorrow's bulletin from Mark Austin in Afghanistan are typical of what has won ITN so many plaudits over the years.

Liz Forgan, former BBC honcho, said the show looked like it had been pre-prepared too much in case it had been a very quiet day in the news.

In fact, she said, it had been a very full day of news, and somehow the bulletin did not represent this.

And it was strange that there was no place for the ban on genetically-modified contents in Asda's own-brand products, the government's announcement of right-to-roam legislation and withdrawal of soyabean oil breast-implants, or the extension for the Northern Ireland peace process.

Instead, more than three-and-a-half minutes was spent on a report about teenage smoking - ahead of Wednesday's national no-smoking day. Nearly three minutes was taken up with a not-very exciting, but no doubt expensive, report about Prince Charles's visit to Argentina.

Still, everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves on the new show, which is just as well - now they've got to do it all over again.

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