Regional TV news viewers in Victoria and Queensland will tonight notice a major shake-up in programming, sparked by the WIN Network and Channel Nine signing an affiliation deal earlier this year.
- Major changes to regional TV news start today
- Southern Cross Austereo will now show Channel 10 programs and WIN will take Channel Nine programming
- There will also be less local content on regional TV news, with changes to WIN and Channel Nine bulletins
And the other regional broadcaster Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) inked a deal with Channel 10, meaning the two regional TV stations did a switch in local programming last night.
Southern Cross is now showing Channel 10 programs and WIN is reverting back to Channel Nine shows.
7 News regional bulletins are still being locally produced in Queensland, in seven regions from Toowoomba to Cairns.
No local WIN or 9 bulletins for Victoria, Qld
From today, WIN TV will axe its nine local news bulletins in Victoria and Queensland, after announcing last month it would move to a statewide format.
The new bulletins will broadcast into the additional areas of Mackay, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Orange, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Griffith and Albury-Wodonga.
Previously TV bulletins were produced for the Shepparton, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland regions in Victoria.
And in Queensland, WIN TV news bulletins were produced for Cairns, Townsville and North Queensland, Rockhampton and Central Queensland, Toowoomba Darling Downs and the Sunshine Coast.
“WIN is actually expanding its news bureaus and will have additional resources in Orange, Wagga Wagga, Hervey Bay, Mackay and Albury,” the spokeswoman said.
WIN’s Albury bureau was closed in in June 2019.
The company said staff changes would not be confirmed until mid-August, but redeployment was being offered.
And Nine News Local has also run its last local bulletins in Victoria, Queensland and Southern New South Wales.
Nine News Regional was launched in 2017 as part of a deal with Southern Cross Austereo, and when it started was broadcast into 15 regional areas. This was later consolidated into a half hour statewide format.
Former and current Channel 9 journalists took to social media yesterday, as the news service was closed down.
People in news vacuum turn to social media
University of Canberra journalism professor Sora Park said losing local TV news was bad news for small communities.
“Fundamentally it means fewer reporters will be breaking local stories — they are the ones that kept local government and politicians accountable,” she said.
Professor Park said a report published last year — using data gathered pre-COVID in 2019 — on regional journalists and the decline of news services in regional areas discovered some disturbing trends.
The study found one fifth of regional Australians had lost their local news services.
“So it was already a very concerning figure in 2019, but because in COVID, [many] newspapers closed and now regional TV is going statewide, people will have less and less local news,” Professor Park said.
She said the most disturbing trend was that without a local new services people turned to social media accounts.
“Especially during times of the pandemic, people turn to TV as the main source of news about COVID and health information.”
‘Another sad day’
Loddon Herald owner and media commentator Chris Earl said it was “another sad day” for rural communities.
Mr Earl said the decision to produce less regional content could also result in less viewers for regional TV stations.
“It’s giving rural people another reason to switch off from their product, and go more for local news, news that is relevant for their communities, not news from someone in a faraway place.”
Union calls for transparency
Victorian Media and Arts Alliance director Adam Portelli said “no final decisions” had been made about how WIN and Channel 9 would reorganise staff.
WIN Network received $4.5 million from the federal government’s Public Interest News Gathering fund, while Nine received just over $4 million from the scheme.
Guidelines for the fund state successful applicants “will be required to maintain existing levels of journalism production and distribution during the grant period”.
The WIN Network spokeswoman said the government funding agreement would finish on August 14, and the media company “has no intention of breaking any conditions under that agreement.”
Mr Portelli said the companies should come clean on what the government money had been spent on.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Queensland and Victoria would be left without locally produced regional TV news bulletins. In fact, as this report now acknowledges, 7 News continues to produce regional bulletins in Queensland.