After twenty three years, newsreader Mal Walden (pictured) is heading back to the 6.30 timeslot as the presenter of Ten News’ new Melbourne-based news bulletin to launch next year.
Walden, with over 40 years in Melbourne television, is a firm favourite with Melbourne viewers – never more evident than back in 1987 when a tearful Walden announced to viewers of Seven National News that he had just been sacked by the station’s new management. Ratings for Seven National News plummeted to zeros and ones after Walden’s dismissal and when he arrived in a minor role at Eyewitness News a month later, ratings for that bulletin hit record highs. He has been part of Ten’s Melbourne news team ever since, taking over the role of chief newsreader from David Johnston when he left Ten to go to Seven at the end of 1995.
Replacing Walden’s spot in the traditional 5.00pm bulletin is George Donikian (pictured), probably still best known to many as the original SBS newsreader and now the principal newsreader for Adelaide’s Ten News, which is currently based in the Melbourne studio. Donikian has been the relief newsreader for Walden for some years now and has also read the Saturday evening Ten News bulletins during the AFL season.
A major component of Network Ten’s ratings push for 2011 is its expanded news coverage which will comprise the usual 5.00pm news hour in each city, followed by a national 6.00pm news-based program (with a presenter yet to be announced) and then a locally-based news in each state at 6.30pm leading into The 7PM Project.
Network Ten has been rolling out its announcements for its newsreader appointments for each city as its 2011 launch has been working around the country:
TVQ10 Brisbane: 5.00pm Bill McDonald and Georgie Lewis; 6.30pm Bill McDonald
TEN10 Sydney: 5.00pm Bill Woods and Deborah Knight; 6.30pm Sandra Sully (pictured)
ATV10 Melbourne: 5.00pm George Donikian and Helen Kapalos; 6.30pm Mal Walden
ADS10 Adelaide: 5.00pm Belinda Heggen; 6.30pm Rebecca Morse
NEW10 Perth: 5.00pm and 6.30pm – Narelda Jacobs
Having Walden reading Ten’s 6.30pm bulletin will certainly give the new bulletin a well-needed kick-start in the ratings in Melbourne as it establishes itself up against the well-entrenched national shows on offer by Seven and Nine in that timeslot.
This expanded news coverage in the early evenings will see Ten’s early evening stalwarts The Simpsons and Neighbours moved to the new digital channel 11 when it launches in the new year.
And just to show that Mal Walden likes to read the news at 6.30, here is a newsbreak from Seven National News back in 1984 where he reminded us no less than four times in the space of one minute that the news is indeed at 6.30pm:
Network Ten is certainly generating a lot of media buzz with its 2011 announcements – as well as the expanded news portfolio and the launch of digital channel 11 the network is also preparing to launch a new reality series, The Renovators, and a new prison drama as well as local versions of overseas shows Undercover Boss, Don’t Stop Believing and Class Of. Popular shows from this year including Talkin’ ‘bout Your Generation, Modern Family and MasterChef are also set to continue in 2011 and the new Melbourne-based drama Offspring has been given the green light for a second series. The network certainly looks to be putting on a more aggressive front against Seven and Nine than in previous years, confidently setting some new agendas and taking some bold risks rather than being held back by conservatism.