ABC confirms launch of 24-hour national TV news channel

The ABC has announced the launch of Australia’s first 24-hour national TV news channel which is set to go live this year.

The digital channel will feature new programs focusing on world news, national politics and business. In addition, many of the ABC’s existing TV news and current affairs shows will also be featured.

In a similar model to Sky News, it will provide live continuous news coverage of big, breaking stories from Australia and around the world.

The channel will be launched with no additional funding from the Government.

In a statement, the ABC said:

Significant changes the ABC has made to news and television production processes, taking advantage of new technology, will allow the broadcaster to reinvest in new programming.”

But its plans have already attracted criticism from the commercial players, with the Weekend Australian columist Malcolm Colless labelling it as a “taxpayer-funded declaration of war on commercial media outlets in Australia“.

The ABC’s managing director, Mark Scott, said:

No media organisation in the country is better equipped to deliver this channel than the national broadcaster.

We can draw on the investment already made in the ABC, through its major newsrooms in every state and territory, 12 international bureaux and 60 regional newsrooms, to deliver to Australians a top-quality 24-hour news service that is comprehensive, independent and up to the minute.”

A continuous news centre with a new state-of-the-art studio is being built for the new channel which is expected to be up and running in time for this year’s federal election.

Further details, including the program schedule and launch date are yet to be finalised.

The announcement of the channel several months before it is ready to go on the air may at least be partly driven by competition with Australian News Channel, which owns Sky News and the Sky Business Channel.

ABC International runs Australia Network, which is Australia’s international voice to Asia Pacific and the Indian subcontinent. The contract for the 24 hour TV channel is up for renewal next year and Sky News has made no secret that it is keen to bid for it.

Senator Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, has welcomed the ABC’s announcement.

The provision of news and current affairs is central to the ABC charter and the new news and current affairs channel will continue a great tradition of innovation at our national broadcaster.

More Australians are enjoying the additional content and channels available on free-to-air digital television and this channel will provide another great reason to make the switch.

The Rudd Government is committed to the continued strength and independence of the ABC. In the 2009/10 Budget, the ABC received its the biggest funding boost since its incorporation in 1983,” he said.

In other recent developments, the ABC last month launched its new commentary and analysis website, The Drum, which marked the first time the public broadcaster had brought together its staff of journalists and writers.

It is led by former Crikey editor Jonathan Green, with its team of contributions including  Annabel Crabb, formerly from The Sydney Morning Herald and now the ABC’s chief political writer.


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