Future unclear for WIN's nightly local news bulletins
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Future unclear for WIN's nightly local news bulletins

WIN Television has assured staff that plans are under way for a new program supply agreement to keep the regional broadcaster on the air after it loses access to Nine's programming in Canberra, southern NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

But the future of WIN's nightly local news bulletins in 15 regional areas remains unclear.

Uncertain future: WIN Canberra news readers Amy Duggan and Kerryn Johnston.

Uncertain future: WIN Canberra news readers Amy Duggan and Kerryn Johnston.

WIN is expected to switch over to Network Ten programs such as Masterchef, The Project and Family Feud following Nine Entertainment's surprise announcement on Friday of a five-year affiliation agreement with Southern Cross Austereo.

From July 1, Nine's coverage of National Rugby League and shows like The Voice, The Block and 60 Minutes will appear on Southern Cross Austereo's channels, which will drop their Southern Cross Ten branding and be renamed Nine.

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WIN's likely change to Ten's generally lower-rating programs like The Bachelor and I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here has cast doubt over the regional network's ability to continue producing local news bulletins, as well as programs like Alive and Cooking and Fishing Australia.

WIN chief executive Andrew Lancaster attempted to reassure WIN's 750 staff around the country in an email message on Monday.

Mr Lancaster said WIN's Bermuda-based billionaire owner Bruce Gordon had given company management his "full support in this new era for WIN".

"As we have always done, we will move forward into a new era and continue to be the biggest television network in Australia and the strongest regional network with the best people in regional broadcasting," Mr Lancaster said.

Reminding staff that Mr Gordon and WIN were "now the largest shareholders in both the Nine and Ten networks", Mr Lancaster said WIN was proud to produce "more local news bulletins than our competitors".

Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley has already said his network will increase production of local news for regional Victoria, Queensland and southern NSW after it changes channels to Nine.

Mr Blackley said Southern Cross couldn't afford to produce full local news bulletins while showing Ten's programs, which generated lower ratings and revenue.

"It strangled us in part from doing all of the things we might have wished to do with local content," Mr Blackley told Fairfax Media.

WIN itself recently revealed to a Senate committee examining reform of Australia's media ownership laws that the 3000 hours of local content it produced and broadcast each year "is not a profitable exercise".

"The amount of revenue generated within the 30-minute local news bulletins is less than the cost of producing and distributing those 30 minutes of content," WIN told MPs in its submission.

Because WIN's affiliation fees were paid on overall revenue generated, the regional network said it paid "a very large percentage of the revenue in the WIN Local News Bulletins to Nine Entertainment Co. even though WIN incurs the cost of production and distribution and all of the infrastructure costs that go with the production of those bulletins".

"In essence WIN pays twice for that 30 minutes of content that goes to air each weekday in the aggregated markets."

CEO Andrew Lancaster's statement in full

Good Morning Everyone

You would have read in the media over the last few days that our long term affiliation partner has established a new affiliation agreement with SCA in Queensland, Victoria and Southern NSW.

The Gordon family and the Executive team want to reassure you that plans are well underway in establishing a new program supply agreement for our channels on the WIN Network.

Whilst regional television has been at the forefront of our business for decades, in the last few years, it has not been the only part of our business. We have expanded our metropolitan television holdings and are now the largest shareholders in both the Nine and Ten Networks.

Over the coming days and weeks in addition to providing you all with details of our plans, our clients and viewers will be our top priority. The WIN Network has always been a very successful business, in addition to our metro media investments, we remain the only regional HD broadcaster and we produce more local news bulletins than our competitors.

As we have always done, we will move forward into a new era and continue to be the biggest television network in Australia and the strongest regional Network with the best people in regional broadcasting.

The Gordon family have given us their full support in this new era for WIN, and I know you will give yours to them and WIN.

We will continue to update you in the coming days and weeks.

Regards, Andrew

James Joyce is the News Director at The Canberra Times