ACT News

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New look for WIN news... but did anyone notice the difference?

The faces reading the script rolling on the autocue have changed, but has anyone noticed any difference, asks James Joyce.

So, WIN TV's weeknight news bulletin for Canberra is now presented out of Wollongong.

Did you notice the difference last week? Me neither.

OK, so it was a bit rich for WIN TV to move presentation of the program out of Canberra to cut costs just as the network's reclusive  Bermuda-based billionaire owner Bruce Gordon was stitching up a deal to sell his Perth and Adelaide stations to Nine Entertainment Co for a handsome $340 million.

And the irony was not lost on many industry observers that WIN's switch to remote-control news for Canberra came in the same week that a federal parliamentary committee deemed it OK for metropolitan TV networks to merge with their regional counterparts - so long as there is adequate protection of local content on regional TV.

But even loyal WIN news viewers might have struggled to find fault last week with the broadcaster's new nightly 'Gong show for the national capital.

OK, so the faces reading the script scrolling on the autocue are unfamiliar to Canberra viewers.


Danielle Post, WIN's ACT anchor for the past couple of years, has been replaced by Kerryn Johnston.

And Amy Duggan, the former Matilda and calendar pin-up, now reads out the scores of the Raiders and Brumbies matches instead of Greg Thomson.

But nothing much else has changed - it's still the same round-up of stuff that has happened in Canberra that day, or over the weekend; recaps -  with moving pictures - of the news you've probably already read in The Canberra Times or at or heard on the radio.

For their part, Johnston and Duggan, after five nights, have delivered a pretty seamless transition to WIN's new production arrangement. They are certainly polished presenters. And so far, so good - no Canberra suburbs or Canberra Liberals names mispronounced.

The weather report probably spends too much time dilly dallying around parts of NSW that most Canberrans aren't terribly interested in - not when there's the chill factor closer to home to obsess about.

Canberra Times letter writer John Lindell, of Melba, wondered in Friday's paper if the Wollongong producers of WIN's 8pm "news break" last Wednesday might have offered a more useful description and measurement of just how thrillingly brisk the following day was going to get in Canberra.

But in the recent upset over WIN's move to 'Gong its ACT news, it should not be forgotten that the short "news break" of which Mr Lindell writes is the sum total of local news content broadcast by WIN's commercial rivals, Prime7 and Southern Cross Ten.

The brief so-called "updates" aired by Prime7 and Southern Cross in Canberra constitute the minimum amount of local content required under licence conditions that came into effect after the stations dumped full news services in Canberra, Newcastle and Wollongong in 2001.

Both Prime7 and Southern Cross Ten  present two-minute news "updates" for  various far-flung regions from their respective Canberra studios - commercial break fillers that the federal parliamentary committee heard in March were cynical "rip and read" services produced without newsrooms or reporters on the ground in the areas to which the "updates" purport to be "local".

So here is the conundrum:  if you really want the TV newsreader reading the Canberra news you can't read for yourself to be reading the news IN Canberra you can try to catch one of those Prime7 or Southern Cross Ten "updates".

Otherwise, there's WIN's weeknight half-hour (actually 22 or so minutes plus commercials) read by presenters in Wollongong.

Lest I be accused of making apologies for WIN, I agree that it just doesn't seem right that the capital city of Australia now has a local TV news bulletin read out of another city. But if that is what it takes to help keep local news on our TV screens, I for one will cope. The alternative does not bear thinking about.

Indeed, what's more depressing than Canberra news read by a person sitting in a studio a few hundred kilometres away  is that 50 years after the capital's original TV station first went to air as CTC-7, viewers in the ACT have more TV choice than they've ever had -  and yet  there's only one program devoted to local news on 11 commercial channels.

That WIN's Monday to Friday bulletin has been the only regular local show on commercial TV in Canberra for more than a decade is an indictment of the rules governing regional broadcasting.

Rules that deem the Canberra news "services" provided by Prime7 and Southern Cross Ten the minimum standard required.

Rules that will need serious toughening if the audience "reach" legislation banning metro and regional TV mergers is lifted.

And let's not forget that most other "regional" TV markets - some with viewing populations much larger than Canberra - don't enjoy the luxury of local items in their 7pm news on ABC1 or a local edition of 7.30.

What do you think of the new WIN newsreaders based in Wollongong? Let us know in the comments below.


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