BBC News 24 to focus on quality

Simon McCoy, right, has left Sky to present the newlook BBC News 24 alongside regular Peter Sissons

The revamped BBC News 24 is about quality of news, not ratings, according to Roger Mosey, head of BBC TV news.

The rolling news channel is to relaunch on Monday with a restructured approach to content and a slicker image.

Overseen by Mark Popescu, editor of the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News, the channel will make more use of the newsgathering network in the nations and regions, picking up stories at local level before they reach the national agenda, as well as drawing on resources in the BBC Sport and Business units.

Critics of News 24 said the £50m channel was an expensive and unnecessary addition to the BBC portfolio when it launched in 1997. More recently, the Government-commissioned Lambert report, while affirming the importance of its existence, said the channel was not perceived to be breaking as many stories as commercial rivals.

Controller and deputy head of news Rachel Attwell admitted that News 24 “fell victim to its own understated way”, but said its research showed the BBC channel and Sky News were on an equal footing on the first airing of stories.

And with a greater emphasis on off-diary reports, it would take the initiative in future, she said. “There’s no point to a news channel unless it’s breaking news,” Attwell commented. “We hope the relaunch will change perceptions of the channel.”

The new red and white Perspex and glass studio – designed by Simon Jago, kitted out with digital projector screens and backed by a restructured newsroom – will be complemented by bolder graphics to alert readers to breaking news stories as well as an occasional ticker tape to provide extra details. “We’ve learnt from Sky, but didn’t copy it – we’re going for impact with taste,” said Mosey.

With the original launch bedevilled by technical glitches, News 24 is running three 90-minute pilot shows before the relaunch on 1 December. Presenter Simon McCoy, who was poached from Sky after 14 years at the channel, will present alongside regulars including Jon Sopel and Peter Sissons.

Despite falling behind Sky News, which pulls in 4.9 million viewers compared with News 24’s 4.3 million, Mosey maintained News 24 wanted to be the channel of the BBC heartland, typically appealing to viewers who are affluent, middle aged and broadsheet readers.

By Sarah Boden

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