With the nights drawing in and the weather taking a turn for the worse, last week saw some interesting ratings.
The BBC regional news at 6.30pm had more than 4 million viewers on four nights out of five.
The BBC News at Six came within touching distance of 4m on three nights and hit 4m on Thursday.
Thanks to this, The One Show seemed to benefit too, reaching 3m viewers twice and getting more viewers than the second half of the ITV Evening News.
I cannot help but feel that, yet again, reports of the demise of traditional television news are much exaggerated.
Yes, the numbers have been in long-term decline – and the many reasons why some people prefer to get their news online must not be ignored – but numbers like last week’s are not to be sniffed at.
The Six and the regional programmes are regularly getting the highest BBC ratings of the day.
Indeed they often beat Emmerdale and Coronation Street so get the highest ratings on any channel.
The success of the BBC News at One and BBC Breakfast are undisputed too. The One usually gets more than 2m viewers and sometimes has three times the numbers tuning into Loose Women and the ITV Lunchtime News.
Yet it can sometimes seem that these numbers are not seen as something for the corporation to see as proof of a deep and special relationship with viewers.
Rather it can seem – even unintentionally – that these numbers and audiences are taken for granted or even seen as something of a legacy while audiences shift online.
There is no conflict between getting the news from the BBC’s excellent app and website and still watching a traditional news programme.
For a start, given the risk of information overload there is something to be said for simply spending 30 minutes or an hour with a responsibly curated collection of the day’s important and interesting events.
No doomscrolling. No wallowing in the warm bath of only hearing opinions you agree with. No ignorance of the stories you don’t click on because they don’t immediately grab your attention.
It is not hard to think of a number of “unique selling points” for the main BBC One news programmes and maybe it’s time for marketing to think about them as well as the newer services and the sections of the public who are hard to reach?
Despite the good ratings I mentioned, I have a hunch the traditional viewing figures could be improved further.
Some people may have simply got out of habits during the pandemic. You cannot blame someone for becoming a “news avoider” while we were all going through a long tunnel with few signs of light at the end.
And it should be noted that the Ten’s audience has fallen notably – it now does well to get over 3m. The reasons are no doubt complex and the fact that streaming services have taken away some of the linear audience all through the course of the evening cannot have helped.
But here’s another idea to help viewers get back into old habits and routines.
There are simply too many people presenting the main BBC One news programmes now and there is not the same sense of audience familiarity.
In the early days of the One o’Clock News, it “belonged” to Martyn Lewis.
After the 1988 revamp, the Nine was always presented by Michael Buerk or Martyn – until he was swapped over with Peter Sissons who moved from the Six.
It is probably difficult for the BBC to look at the issue until the position concerning Huw Edwards is clearer. George Alagiah does not seem to have been directly replaced either.
But it would be nice to be able to have a clearly identifiable team of, say, six or seven people who were the only presenters of the BBC One news programmes.
I would argue that it is no bad thing to make some of them the key faces of specific programmes too.
For the sake of argument, 1pm could belong to Ben Brown or Jane Hill. Sophie Rayworth or Clive Myrie could be the only regulars at 6pm.
It all helps to create a clearer brand image and build trust.
I cannot help but feel it is a shame that virtual unknowns often present the weekend lunchtime bulletins even though nobody can doubt their professionalism or ability.
BBC English Regions, at least, seem to get this – last week they highlighted the return of Peter Levy to lunchtime Look North.
Message to BBC marketing – the main BBC One news programmes are to be cherished and celebrated. They are not legacies for the digitally disadvantaged.
They can comfortably find a place in a digital world and journalists can work hard to serve different audiences on different platforms.
PICTURED: BBC newsroom, London. COPYRIGHT: BBC.