Oct 11, 2010
As many of you may have read over the weekend, George Negus has been signed to front the national Ten News 6pm show that is set to launch next year. I’d suggest that very few people were surprised at the announcement of Negus taking on the role. He’s been a familiar face on The 7PM Project over the past year, giving that show a stronger sense of news credibility.
With Negus taking on the primary hosting role and Chris Masters signed in a part-time capacity to advise on investigative stories, it is apparent that the news program will not simply serve as a dry stock-standard news report program. On taking the role, Negus stated:
“What Ten has in mind for the 6pm time-slot is seriously different,” he said.
“It could well change the landscape of free-to-air, prime-time national and international news and current affairs in this country for the better. When a network talks about restoring credibility to commercial news and current affairs, I listen.”
If this show lives up to its promise, Ten may quite possibly be set to launch the country’s premier news program. Half an hour each night of serious national and international news, legitimate current affair reportage, and interviews. This could be Australia’s equivelant to the PBS News Hour. Only with a budget and the possibility that people will actually tune in.
The appointment of Negus has changed the perception of the value of this new 6pm national news program. Previously, it was just a curiosity to see whether Ten could put together a well-resourced quality news program. With Negus at the helm and the added promise of the programs intent, this has suddenly developed into one of the more interesting offerings on the evening schedule.
That said, it’s all very good and well for Ten to be launching this news service, but the real question is whether it will be of interest to viewers. Are audiences looking for a harder edged, more thoughtful news service at 6pm? Let alone on one of the commercial channels? Media pundits and news enthusiasts often complain at the lowest-common denominator approach taken by the FTA news and current affairs shows, but they do rate. This will be the test to see if a more substantial service can attain a significant viewing audience.
Consider the fate of Lone Star in the US earlier this month. Critically praised and applauded by TV nerds everywhere, Lone Star was one of the sharpest, HBO-like high quality dramas broadcast on US FTA television. The show lost almost a million viewers on its second week out and cancelled the next day. Audiences just didn’t take to content with such high-brow intent. A different television market to be sure, but there’s potentially still a lesson to be learnt from it.
Is high-brow content doomed to only ever cater to the niche? Ten are putting that notion to the test. Hopefully it won’t be a glorious failure.