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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 11:12 GMT
Digital news... a bulletin too far?
By Mark Barlex and Jawad Iqbal
Editors of BBC Three and BBC Four News

Why does the BBC need news programmes on its digital channels when it has News 24 and its normal flagship bulletins? Aren't they just a waste of money? Not according to the editors of BBC Three and BBC Four.

Presenters Eddie Mair and Tazeen Ahmad
The Seven O'Clock News carries a range of "unique stories"

Mark Barlex writes: The idea behind a specific news service for BBC Three is exactly that: tailored programmes for a specific audience, in this case the mid-20s to mid-30s demograph.

These are people who don't necessarily buy into news in a traditional sense, and the 30-minute Seven O'Clock News and 60second updates are us trying to engage with that audience.

Our remit is to make distinctive programmes. We're trying to make our news accessible.

We're trying to bring the audience stories it won't get elsewhere. And we're trying to present the news with a little bit of wit and understanding, in a style they understand and engage with.

What do we do that other programmes don't? Lots, I think.

We work hard to cover a range of stories you won't see on other bulletins.

The Seven O'Clock News almost always includes a piece of in-depth, original journalism aimed very specifically at our audience.

We carry a lot of entertainment stories, although we don't buy into the idea of celebrity, and we apply a healthy degree of scepticism to our coverage.
Like lots of other programmes on digital channels, we don't get big audiences...but we get good feedback
Mark Barlex

We insist on high production standards. We're very creative and imaginative in the way we cover news. And we're not afraid to enjoy ourselves.

Has it been a success? Well, like lots of other programmes on digital channels, we don't get big audiences.

But we get good feedback for what we do, and I think we've shown there's more than one way to get news across.

Both the Seven O'Clock News and our 60second bulletins have developed a really distinctive tone which ties in with the BBC Three audience.

And a lot of what we do - both the stories we cover and the way we cover them - gets picked up by other programmes, inside the BBC and outside too.

That has to count for something.


Kirsty Lang
The World aims to complement, not compete with, other news shows

Jawad Iqbal writes: BBC 4's news programme The World aims to provide in-depth analysis of the day's international news stories.

The programme's format of covering three stories a night allows it to explore some of the issues behind the headlines, and offer viewers the context behind some of these developments.

The World has the flexibility to look at a broader range of stories, and set a different agenda.

The programme prides itself on being ahead of the pack, pointing viewers to developing international news stories days before other television outlets show an interest.

For example, we recently led the programme on a UNICEF report into child poverty - a story that attracted very little coverage in more conventional news bulletins - and followed this with a lengthy discussion looking at the underlying causes.

The programme also makes time to interview prominent policy makers and specialists in their field, with a view to providing a more subtle take on current stories.

All the stories might be covered elsewhere, but it is unlikely that they will be covered as consistently or in as much depth
Jawad Iqbal

Other programmes might go for more immediate soundbites, whereas we have the space and time to explore these issues in a more sophisticated way.

Recent examples of this have been a lengthy interview with the renowned historian Professor Roy Foster, on the Northern Ireland peace process; PJ O'Rourke on contemporary American politics; and Seymour Hersh on the challenges facing journalism in a rapidly changing world environment.

The World does not aim to compete with our other news services. It is there to enhance and complement the wide range of programmes we offer viewers.

Its focus on the international agenda is particularly vital in the post-9/11 world.

In recent months, we've covered Africa in depth - both good and bad news stories; we've devoted extra time to look at the direction in which President Putin is taking Russia; we've covered the drop in value of the Dollar; and also found time to explore the debate over the future direction of Europe's economy.

All are stories that might be covered elsewhere, but it is unlikely that they will be covered as consistently or in as much depth.

BBC Four is a relatively young channel and faces stiff competition in a rapidly changing television environment.

We're hoping to grow alongside the channel and build a strong and loyal audience over time.



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