ITN News Channel is now ITV News Channel. No change.
Back in August 2000, ITN became a producer/broadcaster with the launch of the ITN News Channel, in which it had a 65% stake.
It wasn't a particularly bad channel, all in all; a good graphics package, a decent journalistic standard, a package of sounders and beds that worked a treat and a good team of presenters and journalists. There was only one thing letting the channel down - the studio set.
It looked like what it was, a studio designed for a single newscaster, and nothing and nobody else. A studio for bulletins, not for a news channel. The desk was too small. There was a central column that looked like it was there to hide the cables. There was barely enough room to get one guest in. All in all, it looked like it wasn't really suited for the job.
It showed up most during ITN's limp coverage of the 2001 General Election. Everything else was okay, and worked as well as could be expected, but the studio really let the programme down, as it really looked like it just wasn't up to the task.
Whether the studio was to blame, or whether there were other elements playing a role, the channel wasn't getting viewers. It was in a poor third place to both Sky News and BBC News 24, who were fighting it out for the top spot in the news channel stakes. It was also losing money for ITN and NTL, the other main shareholder, hand over fist.
Recently, Carlton and Granada bought most of the channel and took over control. They rebranded it as the ITV News Channel, and this is where we find ourselves here and now, with a 'new' channel - or a rebranded channel in a different studio.
So what do all the changes mean? The channel now has ITV's news agenda, which is the most tabloid agenda of all the broadcasters. Even Sky News, which has a very tabloid look, has a more serious agenda than ITV News does. Five News has a fairly tabloid agenda, but gets piped at the post by ITV News.
The ITV News Channel also has a bad habit of repeating ITV1 news programmes, even though other channels are showing live programming at the same time. The Evening News, the News at Ten and the Morning News all get repeated at least twice, and the channel has been known to repeat ITV1's Tonight programme as well.
Despite being called the ITV News Channel, the channel has also shown live UEFA Champions League matches. It is almost like the channel morphs into the ITV Sport Channel for 3 hours. The football designed to improve the ratings for the channel for a short time, rather than as part of any long-term strategy to improve the reach and viewership of the channel.
S, what really does need to be done to help the channel? Well, put simply, a lot needs to be done, and the process needs to begin soon. The ITV News Channel needs to be separated from the ITV1 bulletins, permanently.
Also, we need to see a change of focus on the channel. It seems to be divided over whether it is a proper rolling news channel, like Sky News, BBC News 24 and CNN, or whether it is just half hour news bulletins, every half hour, like CTV NewsNet in Canada or CNN Headline News in the US.
The ITV News Channel cannot go on not knowing whether it is rolling news or half-hourly bulletins. It must settle on being one or the other and would get more respect and credibility if it went down the rolling news route. That way, you would still have regular reports, but also live inserts from the scene of a developing story. A dedicated studio, with a well-designed and implemented studio set would be a great help too.
Carlton and Granada have had a notoriously bad history when it comes to multichannels. Carlton had five multichannels at one stage, Granada had four, and they were both co-owners of the ITV Sport Channel. That channel spectacularly collapsed both ITV Digital and itself. Granada ditched Talk TV after less than a year and closed Breeze within the past year.
Carlton now have only Carlton Cinema left after the crash of Taste CFN and the closure of World, Kids and Select.
Whether the ITV News Channel will itself reverse Carlton and Granada's bad parody of the Midas touch has yet to be decided, but they way things are currently, that kind of trend reversal does not seem likely or even remotely possible.