Four Corners attracted 910,000 viewers last night for a program that was a bit of a con.

The on air promotion suggested that the program was a revisit of the subprime mortgage mess in the US: it was, they simply re-ran most of the good story Paul Barry did last year.

Yes, there was some new material at the start with vision and grabs from another news source (the watermark was obscured in the lower left hand bottom of the frame). Some grabs from the US presidential candidates, UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, our PM, Kev Rudd and vision of newspaper front pages from the past week, plus pics of Wall Street (thanks BBC?).

The giveaway of the laziness was that there wasn’t a sign of reporter Paul Barry anywhere in the “new material” up the front. No piece to camera in Wall Street.

It was cheap and a very lazy way of recovering a story that had developed a long way from the subprime mess (which readers of Crikey were being told about back in March, April and May of last year).

No mention of bank bail outs, terrible trading days on stockmarkets, especially as bank lending disappeared. Some points remained solid from the 2007 report, but even that was dated. When Paul Barry said that 60,000 jobs in the US had been lost, that was late last year: its well over 700,000 now in this year alone, with 159,000 lost in September.

It would have been so easy to update, so easy to re-voice and rework, but Four Corners chose a cheap and very tired way of doing it. The program is the sole remaining serious long format current affairs effort in this country and viewers last night deserved more.

For example, there has been a huge change in the focal point for subprime mortgages: its Nevada, Florida and California. the damage to the economy from the subprime mess and credit crunch has changed the dynamics of the US presidential and Congressional polls. No recognition of that important point in the story, or any attempt to give a context post poll for the new administration and president and the way they will be restricted in some many areas.

Four Corners’ effort merely reinforced the difference with the more commercial Seven Network. At least it went to the time and effort to produce and show an up to date special on Sunday night in prime time at 6.30pm.

The ABC’s contribution to this huge story has been far better each day than commercial TV (and Radio has been more encompassing that TV news and Current Affairs), but just when it needed some sort of major statement or ‘pull together’ by a voice as authoritative as the ABC, it fluffed its chance.

Four Corners wasn’t that effort last night; it reminded us of the fine report Paul Barry did in 2007. The story is very different in 2008.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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