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(AUSTRALIA) Local News Network Report: Regional TV news viewers in Victoria & Queensland will tonight notice a significant shake-up in programming, sparked by the WIN Network & Channel Nine signing an affiliation deal earlier this year #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – July.03: Southern Cross is now showing Channel 10 programs and WIN is reverting back to Channel Nine shows also 7 News regional bulletins are still being locally produced in Queensland,in seven regions from Toowoomba to Cairns.

AUSTRALIA: Concerns for local content in regional TV shake-up for Victorian, Queensland viewers and the other regional broadcaster Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) inked a deal with Channel 10, meaning the two regional TV stations did a switch in local programming last night.

A white car with the words WIN Network on the bonnet. A young female journalist speaks into a microphone in the background
The WIN Network will move to a statewide news bulletin, rather than locally produced news in Victoria and Queensland.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

No local WIN or Ch9 bulletins for Victoria, Qld

From today, WIN TV will axe its nine local news bulletins in Victoria and Queensland, after announcing last month it would move to a statewide format.

A woman on a Channel 9 news desk
Nine News Local launched in 2017 and originally employed 110 staff across eastern Australia.(Supplied)

The new bulletins will broadcast into the additional areas of Mackay, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Orange, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Griffith and Albury-Wodonga.

Previously TV bulletins were produced for the Shepparton, Bendigo, Ballarat and Gippsland regions in Victoria.

And in Queensland, WIN TV news bulletins were produced for Cairns, Townsville and North Queensland, Rockhampton and Central Queensland, Toowoomba Darling Downs and the Sunshine Coast.

A WIN Network spokeswoman claimed: “WIN isn’t axing bulletins, it is expanding the news footprint and changing the format”.

“WIN is actually expanding its news bureaus and will have additional resources in Orange, Wagga Wagga, Hervey Bay, Mackay and Albury,” the spokeswoman said.

WIN’s Albury bureau was closed in in June 2019.

The company said staff changes would not be confirmed until mid-August, but redeployment was being offered.

A cameraman filming inside a dilapidated house.
A new deal between WIN and Nine means changes in regional Queensland, Victoria and parts of NSW.(ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

And Nine News Local has also run its last local bulletins in Victoria, Queensland and Southern New South Wales.

Nine News Regional was launched in 2017 as part of a deal with Southern Cross Austereo, and when it started was broadcast into 15 regional areas. This was later consolidated into a half hour statewide format.

Former and current Channel 9 journalists took to social media yesterday, as the news service was closed down.

People in news vacuum turn to social media

University of Canberra journalism professor Sora Park said losing local TV news was bad news for small communities.

“Fundamentally it means fewer reporters will be breaking local stories — they are the ones that kept local government and politicians accountable,” she said.

Professor Park said a report published last year — using data gathered pre-COVID in 2019 — on regional journalists and the decline of news services in regional areas discovered some disturbing trends.

The study found one fifth of regional Australians had lost their local news services.

“So it was already a very concerning figure in 2019, but because in COVID, [many] newspapers closed and now regional TV is going statewide, people will have less and less local news,” Professor Park said.

She said the most disturbing trend was that without a local new services people turned to social media accounts.

“(Social media) is not professionally produced news … there is a lot of information mixed up with misinformation and news,” Professor Park said.

“Especially during times of the pandemic, people turn to TV as the main source of news about COVID and health information.”

A man holding the newspaper he owns and edits
Loddon Herald owner and media commentator Chris Earl.(ABC Central Victoria: Sarah Lawrence)

‘Another sad day’

Loddon Herald owner and media commentator Chris Earl said it was “another sad day” for rural communities.

“Regional areas need local news and the abandonment shows another level of disrespect and contempt,” he said.

Mr Earl said the decision to produce less regional content could also result in less viewers for regional TV stations.

“It’s giving rural people another reason to switch off from their product, and go more for local news, news that is relevant for their communities, not news from someone in a faraway place.”

WIN Network journalist and camera operator
The future of WIN Network journalists in Victoria and Queensland is uncertain. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Union calls for transparency

Victorian Media and Arts Alliance director Adam Portelli said “no final decisions” had been made about how WIN and Channel 9 would reorganise staff. 

WIN Network received $4.5 million from the federal government’s Public Interest News Gathering fund, while Nine received just over $4 million from the scheme.

Guidelines for the fund state successful applicants “will be required to maintain existing levels of journalism production and distribution during the grant period”.

The WIN Network spokeswoman said the government funding agreement would finish on August 14, and the media company “has no intention of breaking any conditions under that agreement.”

Mr Portelli said the companies should come clean on what the government money had been spent on.

“There’s a real obligation for the media outlets to be transparent and ensure the journalists know what their future is.”

#AceNewsDesk report ……Published: July.03: 2021:

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