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The ABC's 24-hour news channel « Previous | |Next »
July 22, 2010

The cash strapped ABC, is finally introducing a 24 hour news channel. It starts tonight and shifts to digital TV (HD). It is another example of how broadcasters have had to change and modernise to meet the fast-evolving demands of readers and advertisers.The national broadcaster has been dragging its feet on this, probably because it has lacked the resources and is over stretched.

Better late than never, given that they have the content and the charter. It is another necessary step into the digital age or economy. This is a media economy, in which the way that we use the internet, the mobile phone and iPad makes the half hour 7 pm News followed by the 7.30 Report an anachronism left over from the industrial age. The new digital platforms mean that we can follow a political crisis in real time on free-to-air and have access to more state based news.

Is this going to be more churnalism, regurgitation of press releases from within the State Circle beltway and journalists talking to other journalists endlessly repeated? The news now just bubbles along on the screens in airports, shopping malls, bus stations and squares so that we have chattering walls. The flow of news is now so incessant that an apathy towards the consumption of news is emerging, because the ratio of filler news to real news in the 24 hours news cycle is increasing.

Real news is simply not a ratings leader and the commercial mass media world is one in which journalistic principles are being thrown out the window in a frantic quest for ratings with junk news. In the 24/7 news world the ABC stands for independent free-to-air news, and as a competitor to Sky News and it will provide more fuel to the running feud between the ABC and News Corporation. Will the ABC's service mean a greater recognition that our local politics is increasingly shaped by global forces?

Jason Wilson in The Age has doubts about this move, given that the ABC is already over stretched:

The new station is being propped up with ''savings'' to be made elsewhere - by asking journalists to do more, by poaching personnel from their current posts elsewhere in the organisation and by recycling existing material.The problem is that the broadcaster is already noticeably overstretched. There are fewer foreign bureaus, local radio newsrooms have been pared back, and for years critics have been saying that for all Kerry O'Brien's doggedness, without solid investigative support his interviews on The 7.30 Report have become ritualistic. Four Corners still breaks occasional stories, but spends too many months of the year off the air.

He asks whether we as viewers - and voters - be prepared to put up with a continuing substandard performance across the broad sweep of news and current affairs offerings as the price of these corporate ambitions? The (relatively tiny) audience that wants continuous news can surely avail themselves of a pay-TV subscription or flick on the ABC's free News Radio.

The ABC, as a broadcaster, has little choice given that its coverage of the Rudd execution was flawed. It does need to step into the digital age, and that means a 24/7 television news services. However, Wilson says that we should ask questions about the size of the anticipated audience for this service — and about who will actually use it in a post-broadcast media world.

There’s every indication that other similar initiatives, like BBC 24 in the UK, have struggled to transcend that audience — which is also the group that Sky relies on for its daytime ratings here. A 24-hour ABC news network will likely be part of the smorgasbord of specialised material available to news junkies like me whose appetite for political content is effectively bottomless. It will, in other words, be largely serving a niche market which is already well catered for. Is this the best way to use the ABC’s finite resources?

Wilson wants the ABC to focus more on depth than shallow continuous coverage by, for example, renewing the investigative remit of 4 Corners in order that it might pursue a greater number of important, complex national stories, the ABC would be providing something that simply doesn’t exist elsewhere and which Australian democracy urgently needs. He also reckons that the ABC should develop its online offerings ---go hard on the ABC Local websites, pursue ABC Open, streamline online analysis offerings, and own that space.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:52 AM | | Comments (8)
Comments

Comments

24 hour news channels create the illusion that people have access to more information. In fact they seem to consist of the same handful of simplistic items broadcast over and over ad nauseam, as anyone who's ever been stuck in a hotel with nothing to do can testify.

I've been advocating a new ABC charter for years; one that requires the provision of a first class news service including both reporting and investigation. Sell the TV network and make current affairs shows to sell to SBS or the private channels on a commercial basis. Make the entertainment shows on radio self-funding through advertisements.

It will never be seriously considered of course. The screams from lovers of 'The Bill' would only be drowned out by the Classic FM listeners who regard the prospect of advertisements with their Beethoven as something worse than blasphemy.

If the ABC is as stretched as Wilson says, will the new 24 news channel simply import existing ABC current affair programs and then fill the rest of the time with rolling news?

As an ABC devotee please understand I do not need/want the change. Particularly NO LEGS from Ali Moore or Scott etc. It's not about them!!! Heads and shoulders are all we need, the rest is offensive.
Next....Too much information, too much swapping from one story, one area of the world to another. Reporters are all faulous but it's NOT ABOUT THEM!!!!! Just give us the information. I love the ABC please don'e wreck it!

Angela,
It's changed already. ABC News 24 has gone live. I saw a little bit of it tonight and I was impressed by the different kinds of material coming in from the states---material I'd never normally see on ABC 1.

I wasn't thrilled by the idea of 24 hour news initially, but I watched a bit of it last night and was pleasantly surprised. I'm just concerned that they'll run out of file footage, and we'll end up with a 3 hour infinite repeat, as there isn't enough news to fill the day.

We are amongst the nearly half of Australian households who are unable to watch the ABC's 24-hour free-to-air news channel on their television sets.The reason is that ABC News 24, which launched last night, is being broadcast in high definition (HD). We cannot acquire a HD-compatible set-top box or TV to watch the channel because our TV is not HD ready. It is too old. So we need to buy a new TV.

From what I saw of ABC News 24 on the free-to air-analogue channel it is quite different to Sky News as it was built on the ABC's strengths--its journalistic breadth and depth, which meant that it was more international in focus.

I dunno what happened after it reverted to HD digital--I did start to watch it on my iMac ( I have an ADSL 2+ connection in Adelaide) but the ABC's I-View stream is metered so I gave up.

The Australian has the audacity to lecture the ABC on the new 24News channel:

In his determination to dominate the news media, ABC managing director Mark Scott has missed the only point that matters.It's the quality and not quantity of content that matters...he ABC's charter requires it to inform, as well as entertain us. The corporation's act charges the board, of which Mr Scott is a member, with ensuring "the gathering and presentation by the corporation of news and information is accurate and impartial". But Mr Scott allows his senior news-gatherers to use the organisation as a bully pulpit for their own opinions...It is easy to invoke the idea of balance, that the ABC offers an alternative to commercial tabloid television and conservative talkback commentators. But the ABC is paid to work for all Australians, not just members of the inner-city intelligentsia who are the corporation's consumers of choice.

This is the pot calling the kettle black.

In Friday's AFR 'Review' Mark Latham explores Labor's Fatal Flaws. Along the way he says that the 2-hour media cycle demands fresh content and fresh faces. Being dreary and old is to be cut down. It has nothing to do with policy ideas and policy reform.

The new pattern is to junk leaders whenever the media grow tired of them and their polling numbers slide. It brings to Canberra a model adopted by the RIght -wing of the NSW ALP, a state party which has had four leaders in five years: Bob Carr, Morris Iemma, Nathan Rees and Kristina Keneally

The inference is that Gillard is on notice that poor polling numbers will inevitably led to the destabilisation of her position.