abcOn Friday evening the ABC announced their Presenter line-up for their new 24 hour news channel. There is still no date announced for the launch of the new service, other than ‘mid-year’. The intent is, however, to make sure that the channel is up and running before the Federal election in the latter half of this year.

The ABC media release reveals the line-up to include:

  • Chris Uhlmann – Political Editor
  • Ali Moore
  • Scott Bevan
  • Virginia Trioli
  • Joe O’Brien
  • Juanita Phillips
  • Jeremy Fernandez
  • Jane Hutcheon
  • Paul Kennedy

Other prominent faces from the ABC will also be involved with the new service, including Jim Middleton, Annabel Crabb, Insiders and Offsiders anchor Barrie Cassidy, AM host Tony Eastley and ABC Radio National’s Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly. Foreign Affairs Editor Peter Cave will also contribute.

Pilots for programs to air on the new channel start next month, with schedules being announced ‘in due course’. Established ABC news programs The 7:30 Report and Lateline will be repurposed for the new channel.

tony jonesThere are very few surprises in the announcement, with the names cited to be exactly those at the ABC whom one would expect to see associated with the news service. It is perhaps slightly surprising that the line-up doesn’t include marquee ABC names like Tony Jones hosting prime-time news programs. I’d almost expected the ABC to launch an extended Lateline program for the mid-evening, expanding it in a similar fashion to CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. Tony Jones would be a great fit for something like that.

It will be interesting to see the tone that is developed for the channel as a whole. While ABC News Breakfast has certainly had a much stronger news offering than the Commercial channels breakfast programs, it has lacked any gravitas. I suspect this is largely a result of the set design, which lacks any energy. The content itself isn’t too bad, but there seems to be an ABC policy against graphic packages and sets that aren’t comprised of non-engaging pastel colours. The news should be bold and exciting, yet respectful. Hopefully the ABC News 24 service will embrace the need for the channel to be visually arresting.

Also, it would be nice if the news presenters would try to look less modern chic and wear a tie.

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Australian FTA television is in desperate need of a substantial 24 hour news service. The ABC have promised that they can launch this with no extra funding required by the Government. While I certainly believe such a thing is possible, I’m wary of the quality of the news reporting and the value of the programming. The two challenges that I see for ABC News 24 is the need to deliver strong content that reflects local news and information (re: non Sydney-centric), and also to maintain an engaging viewer experience.

This is gearing up to possibly be the most interesting television launch of 2010.