WIN NEWS closes four bureaus in AUSTRALIA

Ben Longden

Well-known member
This has been brewing for at least two years.
it is a disaster for journalism in the country.

But first a background..

Australia has only THREE commercial TV channels, Seven, Nine, Ten, all hubbing out of Sydney, with delayed and live telecasts across the country.
They are joined with the National broadcaster, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and SBS a culturally diverse station.

In the regional areas, there are a number of regional TV stations that started in the 1960s and cherry picked the programming being broadcast in Sydney. The reels of film and tape were literally trucked from station to station, so viewers could be weeks behind in serial episodes.

In the late 80s, the federal govt decided to give the viewer a greater choice than their local TV station and the national broadcaster, by opening up the opportunity for the big three to be present in the marketplace.. So towns now had all four networks, under a slew of names, but using the common numerical logo in their tags.

WIN Television was one of these little players, operating 100km south of Sydney.. With the so called aggregation of the market, it jumped ahead and established itself in 24 stations right across the country, covering 80% of the 25 million population in an area the size of mainland US.

Each state had its own state office, and main news presenting studio.
Each bureau would compile its stories of three SoTs and two RVOs on average, and cherrypick the best of what its colleagues were doing, and submit that list to the state office, who, from 4pm daily would prerecord that bureaus evening bulletin, with the state office market being read live.

WIN developed the art of dispatching these bulletins to a central master control, where each and every market was controlled - by one man. he would oversee up to eight WIN stations,and ensure their bulletins went to air at the same time, and delivered by microwave link to the various transmitters scattered around 300km apart.

This deal worked well for many years, then the owner was sold an idea, where they could hub ALL 24 stations, in multiple time zones all from ONE office in Sydney and save a SHIPLOAD of cash.

So ALL 24 bureaus started to send their packs to Wollongong, where each state newsreader relocated to, and all the nations news bulletins were assembled, then dispatched. . BUT the central hubbing costs ran out of control. So much so, reporters nationwide were told to buy their own pens and notebooks. Travel was restricted to save fuel - 700km round trip for some stories.. and the service ignored the viewers away from the town the bureau was based in.

After a while things settled... then came fast broadband to the country and optic fibre to the homes.. and streaming with video on demand services taking off.

As NINE was the main feed for WIN, it wanted to do two things; Up their take of the ad revenue from WIN, and establish a video on demand streaming service.

WIN Owner Bruce Gordon (lives in the Carribean) saw red at both demands and took Nine to court over the VoD service, as it would cut his ad revenue by allowing people to watch TV without ads... (he did not think that through). The billionaire lost.
Nine said pay the new ad fees, sign the contract or die.

Meanwhile TEN, was doing really really badly in regional ratings due to bad programming choices, and so Gordon struck a deal.
In six weeks the entire WIN network was taking Tens programming and rebranded themselves.

Nine was pissed, so they launched a combined regional and metro news bulletin, establishing one man bands in the same towns WIN had bureaus with a staff of 15 in....
These regional metro bulletins were tailor made for the region, and covered all the same gigs TEN and WIN News were doing. and in the most case; better. See where this is leading.

WIN stuck with the SD XDCAM and had to replace failing, aged cameras with ones from its TVC production pool they had closed and outsourced.. (WAHT A WASTE), and Nine bought brand spanking new Sony HD pro series "handycams' and the vision quality was astounding.. as Nine broadcast in HD, and WIN simply uprezzed their SD material on their HD channel, while TEN was using HD cameras... the quality comparison was chalk and cheese.

This meant that in several towns, or markets they had THREE local news bulletins for each geographic location.. Prime News on the Seven network, WIN News on the Ten network and NINE on the Nine network.... See where this is going?

Country viewers are a dedicated group. they love the news from people they trust. So, the long established newsrooms got the ratings picks.. Then NINE, and simply because because of the programming TEN was running, the ratings were in the pits... and so was the ad revenue... because in Australia, local news is used as a tool to boost ratings. thats all. not to inform. just boost ratings. That was told to me by a former bureau manager.

WIN was losing money hand over fist.. and something had to stop the cash bleeding out... to FOUR newsrooms were closed.
staff were told to stay back. as the bulletin went to air, they were told they were all out of a job by THIS friday.

45 sacked.

On the plus side, there are now a few spare dodgy, battered and worn out XDCAMS, ready to backup the other bureaus when their cameras fail.