They say Christmas comes earlier every year. But when it comes to the BBC News on BBC One, there’s never been consistency to holiday scheduling.
This year, the BBC started to move towards a holiday schedule unusually early.
On 21st December, the BBC News at Six and the regional programmes were curtailed because of Sports Personality of the Year – pushed from its normal Sunday night slot by the World Cup.
The following night, more surprisingly, A Question of Sport took the 6.30pm slot. On both days, the One and Ten ran to their usual lengths.
The exact reasoning seems unclear. On both occasions, the full news hour would have been likely to get more viewers.
Resourcing or holiday leave Is unlikely to have been the issue – at least for network and the nations.
But a look back at the schedules reveals that the BBC has form in this from decades ago.
On Friday 20th December 1974 there was no Nine o’Clock News. A shortened bulletin was shown at 9.15pm. The reason? It seems a repeat of The Goodies and Ken Dodd’s World of Laughter was more in keeping with the holiday mood.
Fast forward to 1978. Of course, BBC TV was blacked out for several days before Christmas that year but the planned schedule for 22nd December was unusual.
There was to be no regional news and Nationwide. Instead the regions were to be allowed to opt out of The Clangers at 5.35pm for a brief bulletin. At 6pm EBC 1 with Rod Hull and Emu was due to air.
The periods between Christmas and New Year have also witnessed changing attitudes towards news over the years.
In the late-80s, there were occasions when all the main national and regional bulletins were shown as usual on any weekdays between the 27th and 30th.
In recent years, there seems to have been a slow trend back towards this.
This year the BBC News at Ten will run from the 28th to 30th. The BBC News at One returns on the 27th but is displaced by five minutes on Friday.
However the 6pm hour is substantially shorter and displaced to 6.15pm.
It is time to end all this.
BBC News is well-resourced and at the centre of the flagship channel’s schedule.
Programmes should run as normal until the 23rd and on any weekday between the 27th and 30th.
The staffing issues which may have explained the issues in days of old are gone.
If the English regions are unable to provide a full service, it should not stop Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Network schedules can allow for this.
Quiet days should not be an issue either. Any news bulletin includes pieces commissioned in advance. On quiet days, middle-ranking stories gain in status.
ITV is running its normal morning schedule between Christmas and New Year – presumably in the belief they will rate better than festive films and fillers.
It’s time for the BBC to do the same with its principle news programmes.
PICTURED: BBC News opening titles. COPYRIGHT: BBC.