The ongoing reporting on the conflict is remarkable. Many of the most powerful pieces are thoughtful, well-scripted packages – not breaking news.
The images and testimony from Kharkiv and Mariupol have rightly led bulletins. The integrity and bravery of all the people involved in these pieces should be recognised.
But the running orders of the main news bulletins are becoming more varied. Ukraine is no longer the automatic lead – bulletins have led, for instance, on the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the P&O Ferries controversy and the Chancellor’s Spring Statement.
And while Ukraine may be taking up between a third and a half of a typical BBC One bulletin, plenty of other stories are now getting on air again.
Inevitably the News Channel has different priorities – especially at times when it is sharing output with BBC World News.
Only a fool would predict how the story of Ukraine will unfold in the coming weeks and months.
It could move up the running order again or the conflict could become an ongoing war of attrition. Reporters and producers would then need to convince editors of the role their story should play on a particular day.
There is a distinction between the need for major news operations to keep reporters and resources in Ukraine to ensure this major ongoing story is properly covered and how much actually gets on the air each day.
This is true, of course, of any major ongoing story. A major court case could lead the news one day, be worth 20 seconds the next and come third in the running order the next. But nobody can possibly anticipate that in advance.
But there are a couple of things to consider. First of all, it is right to extend bulletins when events make that necessary – but the default position should be the advertised schedule.
We have discussed before whether ITV’s decision to reintroduce hourly daytime summaries in the early days of the Russian invasion was necessarily helpful. News junkies would not be watching but might some fans of This Morning have been inadvertently and unintentionally left unduly anxious by the mere presence of the bulletins?
This is not like the situation in the 1991 Gulf War when large parts of the (then unsuccessful) BBC daytime schedule were given over to rolling news about a conflict Britain and the United States were taking part in.
ITV’s normal weekend CITV simulcast returned this weekend. There may be a case for ITV launching a regular weekend edition of Good Morning Britain or an early morning news service.
But in an age of 24-hour news, why would a news viewer switch to a special ITV News programme which had little promotion? News viewers know and trust BBC Breakfast and Sky News on weekend mornings.
In short, you cannot simply build an audience in a crowded market by scheduling special programmes. The commitment needs to be lasting and ongoing – like iTV’s extension to the 6.30pm news which is a clear strategic move for the long term.
As for a special weekend breakfast service, what was the point? This isn’t 1991 when the BBC felt the need to insert bulletins on weekend mornings around the Open University and CBBC.
As for the extension to the 6.30pm news, it is certainly holding its audience through the second half-hour and the ratings often peak about 7pm.
But it is still beaten by a significant margin by the BBC News at Six and regional news.
Perhaps more worrying for the Beeb is that the ratings for The One Show have not changed noticeably without competition from Emmerdale. The ITV Evening News is a few hundred thousand ahead.
But that’s a discussion for another day.
PICTURED: BBC News with Jane Hill. COPYRIGHT: BBC.