TV Diary: Dan Walker

TV Diary: Dan Walker

Wednesday, 12th July 2023
Dan Walker (credit: ITN/Channel 5)
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5 News is that rare beast – a terrestrial news show that is adding viewers. Dan Walker can’t believe his luck

Isn’t it odd how quickly time goes sometimes? Apparently, I have been at Channel 5 for over a year – which I can’t get my head around. When I first met the boss, Ben Frow, he told me he wanted me to anchor the news but also make loads of other programmes for them and he has been true to his word.

We have made a series about archaeology, a series about missing people called Vanished, which is coming back later in the year, and I’m in the middle of filming a travelogue with Helen Skelton, which I’m aware doesn’t sound like work at all – we are travelling around the Pennines visiting some amazing places and talking to incredible people.

There are all sorts of other shows I would love to make at Channel 5 but our news programme remains my biggest focus. One of Ben’s targets when I started was to increase the audience by 20% in the first year… we have managed to add 30%, which the team is rightly proud of.

We go out of our way to make our style as conversational as possible. We think that news should never be a lecture and, at a time when trust has never been more important, we try and put honesty, integrity and accuracy at the heart of what we do. We try to be distinctive and it’s lovely to see that reflected in the way people talk about the programme.

TV is a brilliant industry to work in and it gives you the opportunity to be creative and constantly think about new ways of doing things. We have added some new features to the show this year to give the audience a sense of familiarity.

At 5.30pm, we do the 5 Things You Need to Know, and Around the World in Three Stories a little later in the show, which allows us to hoover up international news in a punchy format.

There are many things we are still working on, but the team is fantastic, and we have our new editor, Debbie Ramsey, starting after the summer so that should be exciting.

Cait FitzSimons has led the troops brilliantly for five years but is moving on to pastures new so there is a wonderful opportunity for Debbie to come in with a clean pair of eyes and fresh ideas and take the reins of a rare beast in TV… a terrestrial news programme with a growing audience.

Channel 5 is a station that doesn’t mind taking risks, thinking differently and standing out in a saturated market. We intend to embrace that in our news coverage, too, so watch this space.

Let me give you an example of that attitude. A week last Wednesday, I got a phone call from Ian Rumsey, Managing Director of Content at ITN, asking me if I was free the following evening. Channel 5 was going to commission a “news special” on the Titan sub, produced by ITN Productions.

I got a message later that day to say it was going ahead between 7.00pm and 8.00pm on the Thursday night. At about 5.00pm the next day, the US Coastguard announced it would be giving a live update on the situation at 8.00pm our time.

When I walked into the office at 6.00pm, Ben Frow was saying he wanted another 15 minutes on the show and that Puzzling, the channel’s new quiz with Lucy Worsley, would start at 8:15pm instead. It is incredibly rare for TV execs to show that degree of flexibility.

Ben took a huge risk but was rewarded with an audience pushing 2 million. Most importantly for me, we got the tone of the programme right and covered a developing story with the same honesty, integrity and accuracy we try and apply to everything we do.

I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Dan Walker is lead anchor of 5 News on Channel 5.