Representatives from regional broadcaster WIN Television met with the Communications Department yesterday to explain a decision to axe 9 local news bulletins.
The decision to axe local bulletins comes despite WIN having received $4.5 million in funding from the Federal Governments Public Interest News Gathering (PING) fund in June last year.
WIN confirmed the decision to axe 9 local news bulletins across Victoria and Queensland earlier this week.
On Wednesday, the Federal Communications minister Paul Fletcher indicated the government could ask for money back “if there is a breach of the grant agreement”.
However, a spokesperson for WIN on Friday indicated the communications department was now ‘comfortable’ with the explanation for the cuts and added WIN would fulfil its funding obligations, telling TV Blackbox;
“The PING funding agreement is due for completion on the 14th August 2021. The WIN Network has no intention of breaking any conditions under that agreement.”
The decision to cut local news services is a further blow for many rural communities which have already witnessed many local newspaper, TV and radio services cut as local media companies struggle to compete against an influx of internet-based metro content.
The axed local WIN bulletins in Victoria are:
While in Queensland, WIN has moved to axe the following five bulletins
- Cairns & Far North Queensland
- Townsville & North Queensland
- Rockhampton & Central Queensland
- Toowoomba & Darling Downs
- Sunshine Coast
In their place, WIN has committed to producing 3 new state-based bulletins which will air at 5:30pm to serve Victoria, Queensland and the western areas of Southern NSW.
The changes are due to come into place from 1 July when WIN returns to being a Nine affiliate.
It is not known how many jobs will be lost as a result of the changes, but TV Blackbox understands the bulk of WIN’s newsrooms in the affected markets which currently employ 3-4 journalists and camera operators will be reduced to one journalist.
The cuts to news staff will likely mean only one local story per market will air nightly in the new combined state-based bulletin.
WIN is also expected to cease broadcasting the Sky New on WIN channel in August when the current supply contract expires.
Existing WIN News bulletins in Wollongong, Canberra and Tasmania will continue to be broadcast in their current format in the new timeslot of 5.30pm.
While there is expected to be significant job losses in Victoria and Queensland, the creation of a new state bulletin in NSW will see WIN employing some additional local news-gathering staff in rural NSW to serve this region.
Starting July 1, the new program line-up will deliver 2 hours of news and current affairs every weeknight:
5.30pm WIN News
6pm National Nine News
7pm A Current Affair
The changes to the affiliate agreement from July 1 will also see Nine discontinue the three regional news bulletins which it currently produces for Southern Cross Austereo stations in Victoria, Queensland and Southern NSW. This move has already resulted in a number of job losses, with more to come.
Southern Cross Austereo is yet to confirm any plans to air local news content on its regional TV stations from July 1 when they commence airing programming supplied by the 10 Network.