The revamped ABC television news is already causing plenty of controversy, as three media players explains.
John Cameron put out the following email – explaining the ABC News revamp launched on Australia Day – to News and Current Affairs staff last week.

Internal email from John Cameron:

Many staff will be aware that we have been working for several months to finalise a fresh new look and sound for our TV News programs.

We’ve chosen Australia Day to launch that look, coinciding with the introduction of the broadcast of our News in the widescreen format (moving from an aspect ratio of twelve-by-nine to sixteen-by-nine, which provides a wider image containing more visual information, and meets government requirements for digital broadcasting).

So from January 26 – this Wednesday – you’ll note a very different style in the studio sets, the colours, the graphics and the on-screen written information, as well as in the style of presentation (greater use of plasma screens on set, for example).

Additionally, new theme music has been especially commissioned and orchestrated. It is based on the traditional ABC News theme “Majestic Fanfare” (the one currently used for Radio News).

It’s been about a decade since the last major changes were made to the look of our News, and much longer – 18 years – since we introduced the current theme music. The changes on January 26 will undoubtedly provoke plenty of comment and opinion, but we’re confident the fresh approach will prove a successful enhancement.

The main changes apply primarily to the News programs at midday and 7pm, as well as Asia Pacific News, ABC News Online and the updates and nightly news promos.

However, several other News/Caff programs will also go widescreen at the same time, and have had their titles, graphics and supers etc reformatted accordingly. They include the 7.30 Report, Lateline, Stateline, Asia Pacific Focus and 7 Days. They will now shoot, edit and broadcast in 16:9 on the digital service (which will then be reformatted to 14:9 for the analogue service).

Already broadcasting in widescreen are Four Corners, Foreign Correspondent, Insiders, Inside Business, Australian Story and Landline.

One important housekeeping matter regarding widescreen is that journalists will need to make their requests for library vision as early as possible, to allow material to be converted to suit the new format. Camera operators will begin fulltime shooting in 16:9 (14:9 safe) from January 26, although we have been shooting 16:9 overlay whenever possible for the last six months. As well as that, some of the most frequently used file vision has already been arced (converted).

Another point is that, since the new look does not use key graphics, there will be more opportunity to use pre-packed graphic material in stories.

As a footnote, not all elements of the new look can be introduced immediately, because of time contraints. These include the improvements to the weather graphics, which will be introduced within a week or two. As the various refinements are made, I’d invite
constructive suggestions or observations which might further enhance the product.

John Cameron
News and Current Affairs

A critical critique of the new Aunty look

And here’s ABC Deepthroat’s take on the changes:

Theme music: Is this supposed to be music for a news bulletin? No gravitas. No sense of import. It left me totally flat. Who orchestrated it? There are too many strings – at least the previous drumroll made you sit up and pay attention. I couldn’t hear the Majestic Fanfare anywhere in the new version, but I could hear a bit of the SBS World News theme.

The set: What’s the laptop for?

The graphics: Why are the captions so small, especially on the weather? Viewers will get crows feet. The red supers over the red bar at the bottom of screen beggar belief. Someone said it makes the Sky News look classy. Especially with Juanita’s bilious lime jacket.

How much did the ABC pay for this crap?

The verdict: More precious ABC funds flushed down the toilet by a profligate and incompetent News Executive. You’d think the ABC didn’t have budget problems the things they waste money on.

It’s indicative of how Cameron and his bunch of yes-men and sheilas (and Max Uechtritz before him) have run down the news stocks of the ABC. Sandra Levy must be laughing in her ivory tower.

Terry Television has his say on the revamp

There are more, less substantial changes coming (so why rush it all out anyway?) But on first impressions it seems to be a theme and a set designed around a low key-presenter in Juanita Phillips rather than to accomodate everyone who will read the news.

The music is thin and not bold enough, there’s was just not enough confidence.

The set is narrow and not as airy as the Ten or Seven studio sets and look nor as crisp as the Nine set.

The plasma TV was used far better than Nine, Seven or Ten does and it took a bit of guts to do a long two way with Joe O’Brien and then allow him to intro his own story. That was a good idea.

The lap top was there before in the mini-change that occured over Christmas/New Year (the outline of the set shape was sort of there at that time but the wood has gone to be replaced with a painted, slicker looking set of mouldings.

It still has a small studio effect and we must wait to see how others look in it.

A small advance, but compared to the commercial opposition, not far enough. The music was not an instant must listen to, but it is early days.

One thing though, it is not the disaster the National was!

The colours are still too muted and too blue-grey. What’s wrong with the coours in the Ten or Seven sets as a guide? And the little on air supers to describe each story were more examples of simpleton TV as pioneered by the commercial networks.