Television newsroom at both the ABC and Channel 9 in Sydney are to merge, screening the same prime-time nightly bulletin.
The decision has come as welcome news to a cash-strapped ABC while industry observers say it’s a logical process considering both programs were generally almost identical each evening.
“It’s been the case for a long time now if you put the DNA of both news programs up on a light box they would be virtually identical on many nights,” one media analyst told The Bug.
“Sure, a couple of segments might be the other way around, with the ABC running with a political story if Scott Morrison had said anything during the day while Nine would have extended footage of a suburban car accident from a member of the public – or seven such accidents on a weekend bulletin.”
It’s been common knowledge in the new gathering game that both channels often share Nine’s vision, especially if the ABC’s two Eumig Standard 8 movie cameras are playing up.
Budget cuts have also seen Aunty’s news fleet sold off to cover board members’ remunerations and with Uber nowhere near as cheap as it used to be, ABC journos have been staying put in Ultimo more often than not and doing their to-camera pieces in front of blue-screen images provided by Nine news teams actually out in the field.
The new merged bulletin will still be co-anchored by the ABC’s Juanita Phillips and Nine’s Peter Overton using the latest in 21st Century split-screen technology available only at Nine.
“The talent was a bit tetchy when the move was first mooted,” one station insider told The Bug.
“Peter thought he should anchor ten times as many segments as Juanita because he was on ten times her salary.
“But to her credit Juanita dug her high heels in and we did some test runs with each presenter saying alternate words in a story’s introduction but that proved too clumsy.
“They will now share phrases in as equal quantities as possible.”
The stations agreed that the merged news bulletin should run from 6.30pm to 7.15pm but a final sticking point is whether the program should be called News 29 or News 92.
And in an overnight statement, ABC chair Ita Buttrose assured journalism and production staff at the ABC’s Sydney newsroom that her job was safe.