Major recasting of news production

Thu, Oct 25, 2012, 01:00

ANALYSIS:RTÉ’s News Now service is revamping the myriad formats, presenters and times of current affairs, writes LAURA SLATTERY

IT SHOULDN’T raise too many eyebrows that Kevin Bakhurst, the man who until recently ran the BBC News Channel, is on a mission to develop its fledgling Irish equivalent, RTÉ News Now.

Although it still gets by on not much more than looped bulletins, a Morning Ireland webcam and on-screen tickers, the channel has become quietly more ambitious in recent months – encouraged, no doubt, by the rising Saorview audience and its place on UPC.

Now it’s early shifts all round at RTÉ News and Current Affairs, as Bakhurst, its new managing director, introduces a new 9am-11am news show from early 2013. It will be produced by RTÉ News Now, but will also air on RTÉ One.

“I think to have a successful Irish television news channel is one aspiration we all share here,” Bakhurst told Seán O’Rourke on the News at One, which might come as a surprise to anyone who was under the impression RTÉ was in the throes of cutbacks.

But the new show – bound to become a vehicle for Ministers happy to get their telly faces ready before elevenses – is actually part of RTÉ’s plan to make better use of its resources.

And that includes its human resources. The long-underused Claire Byrne officially joins the Prime Time team, as does George Lee, whose time in the RTÉ sin bin since his brief political foray is now over. They join Pat Kenny and Miriam O’Callaghan to complete an RTÉ current affairs big four.

Regional correspondents will be equipped with smartphones to feed directly into bulletins. In Dublin, RTÉ hopes to use wireless technology to forgo expensive satellite uplinks – TV3 News, which revamped its bulletin as The 5:30, already does this.

Where Irish audiences differ from those in Britain is in their appetite for news and current affairs in the key 9pm-10pm hour. The Frontline will now start at 9.30pm, while the new Sunday midday slot for The Week in Politics makes sense given it was recorded earlier than its late evening transmission anyway.

Housing Prime Time and The Frontline in a shared studio and getting them to “vary the audience experience”, sounds a little, well, like the BBC’s Newsnight.