Simon Ellery takes a look at whether the 24-hour rolling news channels came of age in reporting the tragic events in the US.
All three UK-owned rolling news operators claim that the terrorist attacks in the US and the events that unfolded following the tragedy reinforce the value of their services.

While Sky News claimed to be the winner in the race to be first with the news, the BBC reverted to News 24 for whole chunks of the BBC 1 and BBC 2 schedules, albeit without anchors that the majority of the public recognised. Meanwhile, ITN claims that its 15-minute bulletin format has been crucial in providing viewers with regular updates.

In terms of audience share Sky was the clear winner in multichannel homes with a daytime share on Tuesday of 5.88 per cent, while News 24 gained 2.53 per cent and ITN just 0.62 per cent. Sky claims unofficial overnight figures peaking at 985,000 between 17.00 and 17.14 on Tuesday, averaging 937,000 between 17.00 and 18.00. News 24's audience peaked at 366,000 and ITN's at 169,000.

Sky News head Nick Pollard says: 'The ratings for Sky News were very impressive, particularly as the BBC and ITV were running the story on their terrestrial networks, available in every home in the country.'

Slammed for being a waste of public money when there are other commercially funded rolling news services, News 24 claims to have finally come into its own. Both BBC terrestrial services this week routinely switched over to News 24 for whole chunks of their schedules.

'Up until July 2000 (BBC 1 and 2 controllers) were not sure that (News 24) was up to full network standard,' admits BBC head of TV news Roger Mosey. He says that events such as the Selby rail crash, the floods in the UK and the Concorde crash all saw the terrestrial channels revert to a News 24 feed. 'On the push of a button you can plug News 24 into BBC 1 or BBC 2,' he adds. 'Such events only reinforce the value of News 24.'

The third player in the market, the ITN News Channel, has been criticised by its rivals as being 'too cold'.

ITN News Channel deputy editor Dominic Crossley-Holland thinks there are two stages to such news events. The first is the breaking news with pictures and live coverage while the second is where viewers want constant regular updates. 'In a way CNN started the process 10 years ago but everything has changed now because of the sheer volume of material in the digital age,' he says. Even after last week's events and TV's wall to wall coverage, the annual costs of 24-hour news channels look high for a few hours of fame.

THE ANNUAL COSTSBBC News 24£50mSky News£32mITN News Channel£20m.