Soon after its 1967 launch ITV's flagship news show became such an institution that 1998's plans for the axe moved even Tony Blair to comment.
But the then Prime Minister's view of the Ten's "deserved reputation" for "even-handed" reporting was not enough to save it from the demands of ratings and executives.
So today, after toasting its planned return, staff at ITV's flagship bulletin can look back at a 40-year past culminating with a decade of confusion taking the show off air for a total of about four years.
News At Ten: A Short History
On July 3, 1967 News at Ten is launched as Independent Television News's (ITN) flagship news programme - and the first half-hour bulletin on British television.
It is led by a presenting team including Sir Alastair Burnet, Selina Scott, Anna Ford, Sandy Gall, Pamela Armstrong, Andrew Gardner and Reginald Bosanquet.
In September 1998 - after more than 31 years at 10pm - ITV reveals plans to axe the Ten in favour of news at 6.30pm and 11pm. It is in response to a ratings drop of 27 per cent over five months and the need to revitalise its evening schedules.
Chief executive Richard Eyre says ITV realises "there is a clear appetite for news that we intend to satisfy" - but some are not convinced.
Gerald Kaufman MP, chairman of the Commons media committee, says the broadcaster is risking its public service role: "Now they are saying that because of ratings, not because of service, they want to get rid of a programme broadcast right in the middle of the peak hour. It's for money."
ITN insiders including then political editor Michael Brunson, long-time presenter Sir Alastair and veteran reporter Gall, are said to be against it.
Sir Trevor McDonald will front the 6.30pm news under the plans.
By November 1998 the Independent Television Commission has reviewed the plans - and gives its approval. News will be at 6.30pm and 11pm with headlines at 10pm.
ITC chairman Sir Robin Biggam explains: "It is right to give ITV the opportunity to put its plans to the test. Of course, many viewers value News at Ten as an institution, but as a high-quality news programme its audiences have continued to decline."
ITN says it "intends to build on the News At Ten tradition" while ITV welcomes flexibility for its evening programming.
On March 5, 1999 Sir Trevor read the News at Ten headlines for what he thought would be the last time. "I do get nervous about everything," he told a farewell party at London's Marriott Hotel before the show. He will move to 6.30pm with Dermot Murnaghan presenting a 20-minute news at 11pm, rebranded as the ITV Nightly News.
A new ratings battle is expected as schedules change.
By early 2000 it was clear news audiences had fallen and alarm bells had started to ring over the news shift. In April the ITC officially tells ITV it is in breach of its public service obligations.
Chairman Sir Robin declares: “It has suffered a substantial loss of viewers to its evening news programmes, and its share of combined BBC and ITV news audience during the first year of the new schedule. The total audience for the early and late news bulletins has fallen by 13.9 per cent.
“The changes to the schedule have also had an unacceptable impact overall on regional news audiences with a decline in aggregate audiences for main regional news magazines of 22 per cent."
From May to June, 2000 it becomes clear the ITC wants ITV to move the 11pm news earlier. It rejects other proposals to bring news viewers with "higher quality" shows before it.
In July the watchdog formally orders ITV to move the late evening news earlier.
August 2000 sees another spanner thrown into the works - with BBC DG Greg Dyke announcing the BBC One Nine O'Clock News will move to 10pm. It moves in October.
Come September 2000 ITV has given up on a judicial review of the order and agreeS to bring back the News at Ten from Monday to Thursday.
It will be allowed to delay the show until 11.15pm on Fridays to allow it to continue with long-format shows.
The ITC welcomes the agreement - the only problem being the clash with BBC One's news plans. It says it is "naturally, disappointed that the BBC chose to move their evening news" in the knowledge of the ITV agreement.
The situation drew the BBC fully into the news argument - and it joined in with an early criticism of the flexibility in the ITV/ITC agreement.
"There's hardly a channel in the world that doesn't have its main evening news at a fixed time, five days a week," said a corporation statement. "Under this proposal, ITV's commitment to news is clear, the 20 minute nightly news will be scheduled at 10pm - except on the two nights it's not. This will confuse everyone, especially the viewers."
It soon becomes clear there was something in the BBC's point with the News at Ten often shifted later even from Monday to Thursday to make way for longer shows. It was nicknamed the News at When? by critics.
On the day after 2001's June General Election, for example, ITV pushes the news to 11pm to make way for It Shouldn't Happen to a Newscaster. The ITC says the news only had to air at 10pm "'on average'" three nights a week.
Come December 2001, end-of-year figures show the BBC Ten O'Clock News has beaten ITV's show in attracting viewers.
The problems persist with ITV's news suffering in the ratings and earning a reputation for moving around.
In October 2003, after two years of struggling to seize the initiative, ITV announces it has agreed with the ITC to move the news permanently to 10.20pm.
on February 2, 2004 the ITV News at Ten Thirty hits screens.
December 15, 2005 sees much-loved Sir Trevor McDonald retire as head anchor at ITV news.
He is replaced by Mark Austin and the show is rebranded the ITV News at 10.30.
In April 2007 Michael Grade, ITV executive chairman since January, tells DS he is hoping to "rectify" the move from 10pm. He comments: "Moving the News At Ten to the outer reaches of the schedule was a catastrophe."
On October 23, 2007 reports suggest the News at Ten will return in 2009 along with Sir Trevor McDonald.