The ABC is set to launch a digital television channel devoted solely to continuous news updates. It will be the first of its kind on free-to-air digital television in Australia.
The channel replaces the ABC1 simulcast currently broadcasting on ABC HD, which occupies digital channel 20. The ABC's managing director, Mark Scott, said the broadcaster had been preparing for the new channel for years. Citing the network's recent coverage of the Haiti earthquake crisis, he said that the ABC had a high standard of quality reportage to maintain. “Our audiences look to the ABC to provide independent, quality news reporting and analysis they can trust. With the launch of this channel, Australians will be able to access the country’s most comprehensive news coverage 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, welcomed the announcement. “The ABC is an integral part of our national media landscape and this new channel will be a welcome addition to the high quality services it offers Australian digital television viewers. The provision of news and current affairs is central to the ABC charter and the new news and current affairs channel will continue a great tradition of innovation at our national broadcaster."
A state-of-the-art studio is being constructed in the ABC's Ultimo headquarters in Sydney to serve as a continuous news centre. The 24-hour news channel will tie in with the ABC's online services to deliver content across multiple platforms. “No media organisation in the country is better equipped to deliver this channel than the national broadcaster,” Scott said. “By putting TV cameras in radio studios, we have already been able to put on television some of the outstanding agenda-setting radio interviews from ABC programs such as AM, PM, Radio National Breakfast and a range of local radio programs. We can draw on the investment already made in the ABC, through its major newsrooms in every state and territory, 12 international bureaus and 60 regional newsrooms.”
The introduction of the 24-hour channel brings the total number of ABC digital television services to four — it will operate alongside ABC1, ABC2 and the newly introduced ABC3 kids' channel.