SBS debuted its new hour long World News Australia at 6.30pm last night and the best that you could say about it was that it’s a pale imitation of the half hour commercial bulletins on Seven and Nine which precede it at 6pm, and not as encompassing as the Ten News at 5pm.

It opened with a “national issue” in water, which was fair enough, then went to the Sydney bushfire story, the Victorian fires and Palestine which was a weak story.

The way SBS packaged up the deaths of 25 US servicemen and other atrocities in Iraq deserved to be the highest placed world story and SBS certainly showed the commercials the importance of that story, especially with the US Presidential campaign stepping up with the entry of Hillary Clinton (who voted for the war).

But it’s called World News Australia and there wasn’t much sense of the Australia part. The impact of the central Australian rain and floods could have been handled better, especially in Whyalla where up to $30 million damage has been caused to the big steel plant and iron ore mines. But then it was ignored by the commercials too.

Structurally the program has longer stories simply to fit the longer run time and the limited editing and journalistic resources. It may have been the way the news went last night but the former sole host of the half hour bulletin, Mary Kostakidis is the second banana to the more expensive Stan Grant, with a young female sports reporter.

Grant did a studio interview ala CNN (his old employer) on the US presidential campaign. His guest was Stephen Loosely, the former ALP Senator and now lawyer and lobbyist (for James Hardie in the past). Kostakidis wasn’t an enthusiast for the original idea because it downgraded her role as the face of SBS news. Some at SBS also pointed to the close links between old CNN buddies Grant and SBS News boss, Paul Cutler.

SBS is no longer a public broadcaster and all pretensions to be otherwise were shattered when advertising was first accepted and then inserted into the programs to raise more money. It’s a fully commercial TV network and on last night’s effort it has a fair way to go to match the efforts of even the Ten Network.

Peter Fray

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