The pending switchover from analogue to digital television has seen regional broadcaster WIN’s South Australian branch last month restructure its local news service and cut staff numbers. This is despite the broadcaster being part of the Government’s recently-announced $34 million assistance package to help regional broadcasters in South Australia and Western Australia meet the cost of upgrading to digital infrastructure and adopting the commercial networks’ new digital channels.
WIN currently has a commercial monopoly in the Mount Gambier and Riverland districts in South Australia, where its primary channels (SES and RTS respectively) are aligned to the Seven Network, and it also provides local broadcasts of the Ten and Nine network signals from Adelaide. The Nine-based channel, WIN9, is broadcasting exclusively in digital.
The costs associated in conversion to digital have seen some administrative staff made redundant from the Mount Gambier station – and the decision has been made to merge the separate Mount Gambier and Riverland half-hour news bulletins into a single news bulletin broadcast across both regions.
WIN South Australia Graeme Gilbertson told ABC Radio:
“An option was that we discontinue our local news altogether as some regional operators have chosen to do.
“There’s no reduction in the way in which we cover our news, it just means that some of the stories may not be as long as they were. Some of the stories in order to fill the half an hour were oddly long. If you watch news bulletins elsewhere, you’ll see that the stories are more compact and there’s more in it.
“The viewers will see a more compact, a racier bulletin and they’re going to benefit with a better service.”
Mr Gilbertson also said the network was not closing its local newsrooms or centralising the production of news to Adelaide – where WIN also owns NWS9.
More staff cuts, however, are expected with the centralisation of WIN’s on-air presentation. WIN has entered into a joint venture with ABC to set up MediaHub, a centralised playout facility in Sydney that will ultimately co-ordinate all on-air content for both broadcasters across Australia.
ABC has had some well-documented ‘teething problems’ with MediaHub – and the gremlins have also crept into WIN’s on-air presentation as its network gradually cuts over its regional and capital city markets to MediaHub.
Regional South Australia, which includes the Mount Gambier and Riverland markets, will lose all existing analogue broadcasts on 15 December.