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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 13:24 GMT
Is News 24 breaking the mould?
By Mark Popescu
Editorial Director, News 24

Are rolling news channels there to offer a variety of stories or just to focus on the latest twists and turns in breaking news? Mark Popescu considers some points raised by viewers.

Jon Sopel and Louise Minchin in the BBC News 24 studio
News 24 reports about 12 stories an hour; up to 17 including in-briefs

Q: Whenever anything even slightly significant happens, News 24 can't seem to leave the item and move on to the rest of the news.

A: I think it's very difficult when a story is actually breaking to define at that moment whether it's going to be important or not.

All the time we're trying to strike a balance between giving viewers a quick update on news, keeping the pace up but also doing that extra kind of BBC value, of giving some extra insight, some extra intelligence and bringing voices that you don't hear in other places.

It's something that, as a group of editors, we are actually debating very hard at the moment - whether, in trying to identify the special values that the BBC should bring to the breaking news market, we are actually spending too much time on some stories.

Every time we make a decision to go into something in much greater depth, then actually we do lose pace in other parts of the hour, or throughout that whole hour.

Q: I think there is too much repetition of the headlines.

A: News 24 is trying to do two or three things at once.

There's an audience that is coming on and simply wants a headline service and they want to catch up with what's actually been going on in the world and they want that quite quickly.

We aim to offer that on the hour and the half-hour and on both quarter-hours.

One of the things we are debating, particularly during the evening when there's less breaking news, is whether ... we're going to bring you 25 or 30 stories, really the best of the BBC.
Mark Popescu

So there is a certain amount of repetition, but a lot of viewers are only watching for five or 10 minutes.

Q: Can't more analysis be put into some of the broadcasts, including new angles on things?

A: I would argue that we do that quite comprehensively, particularly from the half-hour up to the hour.

We quite often will have items which are running for six or seven minutes and debates off the back of those as well, where we go into quite a bit of detail.

Something we have also been introducing this year, with quite a lot of positive feedback, is where we have taken a particular subject and devoted most of the day to that subject.

We have done that with South Africa, we've done that in the Middle East, we've had days on Iraq.

We've also had days in this country where we've looked at issues as diverse as childhood obesity and the impact of the low dollar, and we're planning a lot more of these.

Q: Why does News 24 show the same stories every few minutes rather than run other stories as well?

A: On average we cover something like 12 stories during an hour. I'm including reports in that, but if you include news in brief it's about 16 or 17 stories and that's actually more than a news bulletin.

But if you are having more depth and spending longer getting into a story in more detail, then we are carrying fewer stories.

I think we could do better and we are looking at our relationship with various other bits of the BBC to see whether we could bring a greater range of stories.

One of the things we are debating, particularly during the evening when there's less breaking news, is whether we should be making a very serious attempt to say we are not going to do eight or 10 stories every hour, we're going to bring you 25 or 30 stories, really the best of the BBC.

We can bring in reports from across the world and the UK nations and regions, because we also have hundreds of journalists outside London based around the main BBC centres.

It's something we are going to try to do very soon.


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