For the previous ten years, the CBC's nightly newscast, The National, had aired at 10 p.m., and was followed by a 40-minute newsmagazine package called The Journal, which was hosted by Barbara Frum. However, following Frum's death in early 1992, the CBC took the opportunity to revamp its flagship newscast.
In the fall of 1992, Prime Time News debuted with Peter Mansbridge and Pamela Wallin as equal cohosts of a package which replaced both The National and The Journal, combining news and Journal-style features into a single integrated program which aired at 9 p.m.
The approach proved unpopular, both within the CBC and with network audiences. The National had been produced by the CBC's news department, while The Journal belonged to current affairs, and bringing the two departments together was fractious. As well, the on-air rapport between Wallin and Mansbridge was visibly tense at times.
As well, because the program aired at 9 p.m., it was competing in one of the most heavily-watched timeslots on the commercial networks. Although The National and The Journal had faced commercial competition at 10 p.m., they had been much more successful at carving out their own niche because in that time slot, almost all of the commercial networks were airing drama series. At 9 p.m., Prime Time News had to compete with popular sitcoms such as Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld and Murphy Brown.
As a result of all these factors, Prime Time News fared poorly, garnering respectable ratings only during extraordinary news events such as the Charlottetown Accord and the tumultuous election of 1993.
In the fall of 1994, Prime Time News returned to the 10 p.m. time slot, and to a format closer to the old National and Journal. Mansbridge again became the sole anchor of the news portion of the show, and Wallin became the host of a magazine segment very similar to The Journal. However, the show retained the name Prime Time News for the 1994–1995 television season.
The following year, Wallin was replaced by Hana Gartner, and the newscast officially reverted to the name The National. The magazine segment became The National Magazine.