There was a little surprise for viewers during BBC Breakfast this morning. The regional news bulletin at 7.55am has been reinstated without much of a fanfare.
Although this bulletin is shorter than the others, it effectively means that the regional news provision during the programme is now back to where it was before the pandemic.
The early morning regional news service has had something of a bumpy ride over the past three years.
In the dark days of March 2020 it was dropped completely. Opts in the nations resumed as restrictions eased before early morning bulletins returned to the English regions – though there were later occasions when English opts had to be dropped again.
In the English regions there have also been a number of occasions when neighbouring services have been merged – often though not always as a result of Covid-related absences.
But with life now normal again, it seems right to be offering a full service.
There is an important question though about the amount of repetition within the bulletins. Each half-hourly bulletin can seem very similar in the absence of a developing story.
It might seem a chore to see the same thing twice. The onus should be on the presenter and journalist outputting the opts to freshen up scripts as the morning progresses.
It’s thought a typical Breakfast viewer sees between 30 and 40 minutes of the programme so there was a logic in dropping one of the bulletins.
But on the other hand the programme’s audience peaks around 8am. The loss of the 7.55am bulletin was significant to the nations and regions. Hopefully the new pattern is an acceptable compromise.
The regional news, weather and travel service during Breakfast is one of the programme’s unique selling points.
The service is much more comprehensive than ITV 1’s equivalent – three hourly bulletins of approximately one minute’s duration plus a short local weather forecast which would appear to be recorded the night before, at least in some regions.
Regional opts were only introduced to ITV’s breakfast programme when GMTV took over the franchise in 1993 whereas they have been a key part of the BBC’s service since day 1 of Breakfast Time.
These are not easy times for the BBC’s regional news teams. Last week they went on strike over cuts to English local radio and action is possible too over cuts to Radio Foyle.
But hopefully the importance of regional news during BBC Breakfast is now clearer than ever.
PICTURED: BBC Breakfast opening sting. COPYRIGHT: BBC.