BBC ups stakes in war for 10pm news viewers

 A series of changes are being introduced on the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News as the corporation seeks to win ground from ITV in the battle for viewers.

With members of a new special investigations unit now appointed, BBC news chiefs are planning to introduce changes aimed at making it more "pacey" with more stories included in the 25-minute bulletin and a brighter look.

Sensitive to criticisms that the BBC is "dumbing down", editor Mark Popescu is expected to be taking a "softly softly" approach to programme changes.

The special investigations unit, which was announced earlier this year, is expected to be up and running by November, headed by news planning chief Amanda Farnsworth.

Along with two senior producers, Simon Phillips, who has moved from Tonight with Trevor McDonald, and Nicki Defago, who worked for BBC2’s Newsnight, Farnsworth will work with the BBC’s special correspondents on original investigations. The reports, which would be done by the likes of Margaret Gilmore, Ben Brown, Gavin Hewitt and David Shukman, will be made on high-quality film, to give the reports "a brighter, slicker look," said Roger Mosey, head of television news.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Mosey said he was concerned that the TV news agenda too often followed that of the newspapers.

"Obviously we have to pick up on a story if it breaks in a newspaper, but we want to rely less on them and ensure that we come across as original," he told Press Gazette.  The news bulletin will include up to two more stories than its traditional count of eight or nine items and two or more "quick wipe" news briefs would be introduced, said Mosey, who added that there would be more live links with political editor Andrew Marr, business editor Jeff Randall and Evan Davies when he takes up his post as economics editor.

The set’s windows will be higher resolution and have more colour to make it look "less chilly".

Mosey said the aim of the changes was to strengthen the BBC’s news at a time when the corporation was establishing its lead in the ratings war with ITV. "It’s interesting that while ITV is claiming that its news is more populist, they have been getting fewer and fewer viewers," said Mosey, who claimed that the BBC had averaged 5.1 million viewers in the past week compared to ITV’s 3.6 million.

By Julie Tomlin

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