Yesterday was a great day for television. The anaemic fare of Christmas holiday TV programming was finally injected with fresh blood as shows like Lateline and Meet the Press returned after their summer breaks. Their very long summer breaks.

Viewers will this week be able to guzzle down a robust TV news schedule for the first time since December, with the return of programs like Four Corners, Media Watch, Dateline, Foreign Correspondent and 60 Minutes, among others.

But where did these shows go in the first place? And why were they gone for so long? Foreign Correspondent‘s website says their researchers and reporters are currently “working on programs for 2009.” But does that really take two months plus? The show has been on hiatus since 25 November. Maybe “working on programs” translates as “kicking back on the beach”?

Other programs have been on holidays for a similar periods of time. Four Corners has been off the air since 17 November, Media Watch since 10 November and 60 Minutes since 21 November. Of course, everyone needs a holiday — Kerry O’Brien will attest to that. He’s been missing from the 7.30 Report since 12 December, presumably taking a well-deserved break. But does it really take two months to stock up on olives at your favourite Military Rd deli? It’s been far too long since anyone was heard calling Malcolm Turnbull “disingenuous“.

It’s more likely that the long summer news gap is a result of the ratings system, rather than tired TV presenters. But that’s outrageous: the news shouldn’t revolve around ratings season. You could argue that it’s a commercial reality and that it’s asking too much for these shows to run all year round, but their absence is still infuriating for news junkies.

Some of the bigger ones…

  • Foreign Correspondent ended 25/11/08 — back 10/02/09
  • Four Corners ended 17/11/08 — back 09/02/09
  • Behind the News ended 02/12/08 — back 17/2/09
  • Lateline ended 05/12/2008 — back 02/02/09
  • Lateline Business ended 04/12/08 — back 02/02/09
  • Media Watch ended 10/11/08 — back 09/02/09
  • Dateline ended 20/10/08? — back 08/02/09
  • Meet the Press ended 30/11/08 — back 02/02/09
  • 60 Minutes ended 21/11/08 — back “mid feb”

Peter Fray

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