One of Tasmania’s two commercial television news bulletins will be presented out of Wollongong, NSW, according to local media reports.
WIN news will no longer be presented from Hobart, but instead moved to the regional television company’s headquarters from August 17, and local weekend bulletins will be scrapped entirely.
WIN hasn’t formally announced the decision, and didn’t respond to Crikey’s request for comment this morning. Network CEO Andrew Lancaster said in a statement that it was just “industry standard”.
“Whilst the presentation location of our weeknightly WIN News is changing, WIN’s newsrooms in Tasmania will continue to provide the stories of interest to Tasmanian viewers as well as WIN News updates as normal throughout the day on weekdays,” Lancaster said. “Technology allows us to present the news from a central location which creates a more efficient way to deliver that news. In this case it means utilising existing facilities.”
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance Tasmania president Mark Thomas told Crikey that staff were “shattered” by the decision. “They’ve worked very hard over the last couple of years to produce a good local bulletin,” he said. Thomas said that while staff have been told no journalists or camera crew would lose their jobs, the network would be produced fewer bulletins with more staff in the newsroom (with presenters back in the pool of reporters).
“WIN TV, and before it Tas TV, has an almost 60 years history in producing local news in Tasmania, and that will now be produced out of Wollongong,” he said. “It’s about that connection — the local news and sports readers are plastered all over the Metro buses, these are local personalities who people look out for.”
Thomas said that fewer local media options was bad for the community. “What’s most disappointing is any loss of local content is … also bad for young journalists and young people. Tasmania is still a hot bed for young journalists, people end up here, they start their careers here, and this is a pathway that will be lost.”
The move is a sign of increasing financial pressure on regional media.
WIN’s commercial TV news competitor in Tasmania, Southern Cross, had an embarrassing spat with Seven after it announced it was rebranding its news bulletins to “Seven News Tasmania”, only to backtrack and remain Southern Cross. Media Watch reported that the turnaround came after Seven told the regional affiliate they didn’t want their name on something they didn’t have control over.
And just this week, Media Watch reported that WIN’s Queensland and Canberra bulletins had been directed to run a “newsworthy” story, created by a production company for Australia Post about stamp collecting month.
The cost-cutting move echoes a similar decision by Nine last year to present and produce the Northern Territory’s only commercial TV bulletin from Queensland.
WIN’s move to program news produced by Sky News 24 hours a day on one of its digital channels is another cost saving move. WIN currently has an expensive affiliation agreement with Ten Network. By broadcasting Sky News, WIN will be able to cut costs in its next affiliation agreement with Ten by not taking as programming from that network and replacing one of its regular digital channels with Sky News.
WIN owner Bruce Gordon has warmly greeted the planned bid by Nine for Fairfax Media. He owns around 19% of Nine and even though that will be watered down by the shares and cash offer, he figures his Nine stake will be worth more because of the offer. That’s despite his falling out with Nine over their affiliation agreement, which forced him to sign up with Ten when Nine snapped up Ten’s affiliate, Southern Cross.
Hobart’s WIN newsroom moved into the ABC’s building in 2014, and still leases the first floor of the building, but there is no content-sharing deal between the two organisations.