News 24 brings in the big names

By Caitlin Pike

The BBC is to unveil a high-profile presenting team for BBC News 24 that will include Ten O’Clock News presenter Huw Edwards as well as special correspondent Ben Brown and BBC London’s Emily Maitlis.

It is understood that Edwards, who was chosen as the face of the flagship Ten O’Clock News bulletin in January 2003, has been persuaded to front a one-hour slot on the rolling news channel between 5pm and 6pm during the week. He will continue to present the 10 o’clock bulletin on BBC One.

The new line-up is part of BBC head of television news Peter Horrocks’s plans to strengthen the channel by putting it at the heart of the news operation and maintain its lead in the ratings battle with Sky News. He also wants to build News 24’s reputation as a breaking-news channel. It is the BBC’s strategy to make the channel the centre of BBC News.

A BBC insider said: "These new presenters are seen as being more familiar to the public, which should raise the profile of the channel. It has also been done with Sky in mind; their relaunch is seen to have been a bit of a disaster and it is hoped that this will really kick them in the crotch."

Since its launch in 1997, News 24 is considered to have lagged behind its competitor when it comes to breaking stories.

The BBC confirmed the new roles for Brown and Maitlis, but would not comment on Edwards.

Horrocks said of the appointments: "Ben and Emily are extremely accomplished broadcasters, and personify the best traditions of television journalism — rigorous, straightforward and always fair."

Brown, who joined the BBC in 1988 and has reported on the fall of the Berlin Wall, the break-up of Yugoslavia and both Gulf wars, will co-anchor the channel with Maitlis between 7pm and 10pm.

He said he was "thrilled" to be joining News 24. "The channel is riding high at the moment, and has a tremendous energy," he said. "I hope I can add to that with my knowledge and experience of almost 20 years of international affairs. I also hope to present from the field when the major stories arise."

Maitlis, who is seen as a rapidly rising star at the BBC, will also join the ranks of Newsnight presenters, along with Jeremy Paxman, Kirsty Wark, Martha Kearney and Gavin Esler.

"I would have given an arm and a leg to work at Newsnight, so I’m rather pleased I don’t have to," she said. "I’m hugely looking forward to working with Ben on News 24; there’s so much energy and so many new ideas on the channel at the moment, it feels like the right place to be."

The BBC’s 10 o’clock bulletin has been simulcast on BBC News 24 since the end of last month. The BBC declined to confirm that its six o’clock bulletin will also be simulcast on the channel. The BBC’s former Paris correspondent, Jon Sopel, and Kate Silverton will continue to present the news on News 24 during the day.

News 24 has increasingly been brought into the limelight since Horrocks, the former head of news and current affairs, was appointed head of television news last September.

The following month, Sky News unveiled a multi-million pound revamp, which included changes to its programme structure introducing presenter-led programmes, in an attempt to encourage viewers to tune in at set times. New presenters were brought to the channel line-up, including former GMTV presenter Eamonn Holmes and former Clinton aide James Rubin.

But the channel’s viewing figures have so far failed to show any increase and are currently lagging behind the BBC, which is attracting 5.5 million viewers per week.

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