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5 News relocates

Philip Stevens visits the new home for the broadcaster’s news programmes

In May 2016, Viacom International Media Networks – owner of the UK’s Channel 5 – signed a four-year contract with ITN to produce 5 News. Under the terms of the new contract, the 5 News team has relocated to ITN’s headquarters on Gray’s Inn Road in central London. Previously, 5 News had been sited in the Lower Thames Street offices of Northern & Shell as part of its previous ownership arrangements. The move coincides with a new look for the programme and a rebranded studio.

“The contract will run until 2020 and demonstrates Viacom and Channel 5’s ongoing commitment to news programming,” explains Cristina Nicolotti Squires, editor, 5 News. “Our new look was designed to bring us in line with the rebrand of Channel 5; to create a design for news that takes in the channel’s core values of boldness and originality, and also strengthens our credibility as a strong terrestrial news brand that is there for everyone. We put people at the heart of all our storytelling, and we are clear, honest and direct with the viewer. We felt that a real set – simple, but clever in design – would help us do that, and would also be more reflective of the high production values that we put on all our news reports.”

She continues, “When 5 News launched in 1997, its presenter perched, rather than sat behind a desk – which was seen as pretty revolutionary then. We wanted something that had that spirited feel, but that also reflects how after nearly 20 years, 5 News has really come of age. The clever design, using the 5 logo, not only punches out on the screen, but works on a practical level, too. With bespoke soft areas we can use it in a variety of different ways, from delivering update bulletins in MCU, to sitting down with a family or a group of interviewees. The innovative presenters desk, with its built in hydraulic system, can be raised or lowered so the news can be presented standing or sitting.”

The new studio measures approximately ten metres by ten metres and is twice the size of the previous one used at Northern & Shell.

She explains, “The last programme in the old studio took place on 28 October and the 5 News team moved facilities and delivered the first broadcast from Gray’s Inn Road on 31 October, with Sian Williams presenting 5 News at 5.”

Essential equipment

Four Sony HXC 100 cameras are used in the studio, two static pedestals with robotic Vinten Radamec heads, one mini jib with operator and one static camera slung in lighting rig. “Having a camera slung in the lighting rig allows us a unique perspective, on our innovative desk design, the product of a collaboration with the external agency Kemistry,” explains Ben Wickham, studio director (pictured). “Retaining a camera operator on the studio floor allows us a wide variety of shots and movement which, in turn, provides the production staff and presenter with many options to tell the story of the day’s news. The GVG Karerra vision mixer is highly integrated into the gallery set-up to provide tight and pacy show sequences, whilst still being easy and intuitive to operate.”

Wickham explains that for the longer news programmes, the normal manning is a director and a technical director (TD) who vision mixes. However, for evening and weekend updates, the TD both directs and vision mixes.

Wickham continues, “The vision desk fires a mix to PBUS and GPI triggers into the Viz Content Pilot (VCP) graphics and SpotOn audio systems to tie together programme sequences, such as headlines and coming up. When TDs are on their own, they can control faders on the SSL C10 audio mixer also.”

Other equipment in the new studio includes Proprietary Centra GUI routers and a mixture of Telex and LTS components for comms. For lighting, acrylic fins and lightboxes are lit with LEDS. By lighting acrylics from behind they gain perspective and colour, which in turn lets the studio take on a subtly different look depending on from where it’s shot. It also allows flexibility by provided a full range of RGB values to the lighting director, via DMX controls. To allow the presenter to move around the studio, but retain access to running orders, we are using the latest MS Surface Pro, the clean lines of which complement the studio build.”

Newsroom necessities

In the adjacent newsroom, the preferred system is iNews. “This is strongly integrated into the Avid Newscutters and Assists systems, and works seamlessly with other systems via plugins to the desktop software. These include plugins for VCP to allow the use of templates graphic, which also pulls in stills store from the VME storage system.”

The producers carry out most edits, and a dedicated editor is used either for complex sequences in the individual packages, or whole edits if they are overly complex.

Prompting comes from Autoscript, and this is automatically updated by the iNews system.

All of ITN’s newsrooms (alongside Channel 5, news output is also provided for ITV and Channel 4) have dedicated editorial operations with separate journalists and editors who lead them so. However, ITN does operate a shared newsgathering operation for on-diary stories – this involves sharing satellite trucks or other broadcast OB equipment to maximise efficiency for its clients.

Squires provides some additional information. “Footage is not shared with other newsrooms unless this is on a ‘pool’ basis where content is also available, under agreement, with other media organisations such as BBC and Sky. This would include things like party conferences or royal events.”

She goes on, “5 News is a brand of the highest calibre delivering independent, accessible, credible, watchable television news. We tell the stories that matter; the stories that have people at the heart and that really affect them. Our viewers don’t need to go anywhere else to find out what is going on in their world; bringing that news service back into the heart of ITN, where it all started nearly 20 years ago, with a fresh, exciting look.”

One final word from Ninder Billing, Channel 5’s commissioning editor, factual: “The exciting launch and rebrand underlines Channel 5’s commitment to accessible news programming following the signing of a four-year contract with ITN to produce 5 News in June this year. The desire for news from our audience has never been so great, so the refresh is timely during a crucially important period for news, ranging from the US election to global terror.”