Briefing Notes: ITV News

Ritchie Cogan
Ritchie Cogan 29th July 2014
media briefing with itv news

IBT briefing with ITV News

Key contacts:

Michael Herrod, Head of Foreign News

Tel 020 7430 4411 T: @mherroditv

Delilah Jeary, Series Producer, On Assignment and Tonight

Tel 020 7430 4625

ITV News

TMichael explained how ITN worked: the biggest team is the ITV News team which produces bulletins for ITV and also does Tonight and On Assignment; there are also the Channel 4 News and 5 News teams. There’s ITN Source, an archive library and ITN Productions which acts as an independent producer specialising in factual programmes. ITV has 3 news bulletins: 1.30pm, 6.30pm and 10pm. The 10 is more international and will sometimes run stories that the other bulletins don’t run; only the 1.30 has studio guests.


ITV News has bureaux in Brussels, Johannesburg, Dubai, Tel Aviv, Bangkok, Beijing and Washington DC. The Joburg bureau is a joint one with NBC News. NBC News also has a foreign desk based at ITN in London and the two organisations collaborate to split costs on stories. Several of the NBC reporters are ex-ITN – like Bill Neely.

ITV News has an international unit with specialist correspondents who fly out to cover major stories: Rageh Omaar, James Mates and John Ray. There are also a number of former foreign correspondents in the general reporting team who may cover foreign stories.

There’s a big commitment to running foreign stories but there are financial constraints. A recent planned trip to South Sudan did not take place on cost grounds.

Michael  is also keen to avoid running the same foreign stories as everyone else – so he’s always looking for original pieces. He recently ran a story on tobacco farms in the US which employed children as young as 12 – he spotted this story on a news list from Human Rights Watch.

Michael highlighted a number of foreign stories which he had run recently: a science piece on malaria; a return visit to the Bangladesh clothing factory; a trip to the Central African Republic; a story on the ivory trade which involved filming in Hong Kong and Africa.

Michael likes dealing with NGOs and says that they can be vital to gain access to difficult stories and also help to reduce the cost. Travelling to difficult locations is easier and cheaper with NGOs – as it can mean avoiding paying for commercial flights. Often they require an invitation to go to the country, which the NGO can help facilitate. NGOs can also provide vital on the ground knowledge, and help with security. However, ITV News would not want an NGO to pay for their flights – they would want to pay their own way.

Michael emphasised the importance of NGOs keeping in touch and telling him what they were up to. He’s happy to be called on his direct line – best time to call him is between 10 and 4. He also would like to know if NGOs are planning any filming trips – it’s much better if he can discuss what might work for him before a trip than be presented with material once the filming has taken place. If the filming is of good quality it could be packaged in London by a reporter and it may also be possible to do a separate interview to accompany the piece on the lunch time news.

If you are shooting material which you plan to offer him, he gave a few basic tips. Shoot long shots (as if you’re taking still photographs) and avoid pans and zooms. Do lots of interviews to get first person testimony. Use a decent camera, not your phone. The material has to be broadcast quality. Think of what the narrative is and try and find images to tell the story.

There was a discussion about upcoming foreign stories. He is sending a team to Syria later this month. He’ll be doing a piece in November to mark the 10th anniversary of the tsunami. He’s unlikely to do a piece to mark the anniversary of the Philippines typhoon – he’s not generally keen on anniversaries. However he may cover the Philippines if On Assignment decides that it wants to.

On Assignment and Tonight

Delilah is the series producer for the new ITV monthly current affairs strand, On Assignment – the half hour show goes out once a month after News at Ten. It was launched two months ago. Each episode has three stories, typically 7 minutes long, but the lengths may vary. They are all original stories, specially shot for the show. Some may be off agenda; others may focus on an angle or aspect of a big foreign story that has not been covered. Cost is a key issue so costs will usually be shared with ITV News – for example their royal reporter was in Australia with William and Kate and stayed on to shoot a story for On Assignment. That’s sitting on the shelf waiting to go out. So far, they have covered Rwanda (20 years on); oil in Norway; legalisation of cannabis in Connecticut; and a story from Hart island, New York. More on what they’ve covered here:

There are 10 episodes of On Assignment a year (with a break in August and December) and both Delilah and Michael emphasised what a good opportunity this was for NGOs pitching their ideas – especially as they would get 7 minutes of air time rather than the usual 2 or 3.

Delilah has worked extensively with NGOs and she was positive about these relationships. She worked with CAFOD on a story which involved returning Rageh Omaar to Somalia; with Age UK on a look at the cost of elderly care; with MSF on a film in Syria.

However the MSF film on Syria did not get made – it was for Tonight but the commissioning editor turned it down.

Tonight is the weekly ITV current affairs show which goes out at 7.30pm on a Thursday. ITN makes 10 episodes a year and Delilah manages this output. The show gets an average audience of 3m – more than Panorama, Dispatches etc. It is very consumer focused and predominantly domestic. They’ve also done a lot on the weather as this subject delivers good ratings. Some of these films are very fast turnaround – getting made in just a few days. In the past, Tonight has done the occasional foreign film, but it appears that this is increasingly rare and it is unlikely that it will do many foreign films in the future. On Assignment is being viewed as the foreign strand – all the stories it has done so far have been foreign ones.

A number of On Assignment films are made in advance and Delilah is particularly keen on timeless stories. She’s interested in going to the Philippines for the 10th anniversary of the typhoon. Rageh Omaar is doing a film in Nigeria whilst he’s covering the missing school girls story. Delilah emphasised that she did not want extended news pieces – the films had to feel very different from what viewers had already seen on the news.

Both Michael and Delilah said they were happy to be contacted by phone or email.

Mark Galloway
May 16 2014.

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