I have no idea what television will look like in 20 years but whatever medium it transforms into, its content will still include 7 x 24 news with a local slant. The ABC “News 24” station launched today despite the grumblings of Sky News Australia’s owners. There is no reason it cannot become the Al Jazeera of the Asia Pacific, especially if it can nail overseas broadcasting.
Jason Wilson said the public is entitled to be sceptical. He said the broadcaster is already overstretched and no new resources have been allocated for the channel. It means the station must reuse content from other media, poach staff from other departments and expect the journalists to work longer hours.
Wilson wonders whether ABC are straying too far from “core business” and should be looking at more innovative ways of delivering content in the post-broadcast age. “There’s no convincing case for creating yet another one-size-fits-all continuous news broadcaster when cheap, plentiful bandwidth will allow for the distribution of a plethora of niche, on-demand or streaming audiovisual content,” Wilson said.
This long tail approach leaves the audience fragmented which leads to yearning for a more centralised delivery. ABC has a role in providing informed news across Australia. When the national broadcaster was set up in 1932, the newspapers at the time (led by Keith Murdoch) resisted moves for its radio station to include news. But by the end of World War II, the ABC had a mandate to produce news despite Murdoch’s best efforts in his wartime role of Director-General of Information.
Keith’s son Rupert is still annoyed about public broadcasting impinging on his turf, but that is more of a reason to treasure the ABC. Taxpayers should not be expected to pay additional dollars for this new service. Working harder, repurposing content and shifting staff are all reasonable demands when the money is not there up front. ABC News 24 may have to “fake it till it makes it” but with broad public trust and time on its side, the oily rag can one day turn into a silk coat. I welcome its addition to the public sphere.