REGIONAL TV news viewers have taken to social media to vent their anger at Prime7’s decision to rehash its hour-long national news into a half-hour segment fronted by Daniel Gibson.
But the network has defended its bid to compete with rival network WIN, saying ratings were as strong as ever for its news bulletins at 6pm and 6.30pm.
Nine extended its 30-minute national news to one hour in January, pushing the WIN regional news bulletin back to 7pm and moving A Current Affair to GEM.
The move prompted Prime7 to follow suit in February, but the network decided to retain its regional news bulletin in the 6pm slot and repackage the hour-long national bulletin into a half-hour show starting at 6.30pm hosted by Mr Gibson from the channel’s Canberra studio.
Viewers have inundated the Facebook page of Prime7 News central west complaining about the change, urging the channel to revert to the old bulletin and saying the rebadged broadcast was “unprofessional”, “bloody awful”, and felt “so 1980s”.
Ray Dally was one viewer to criticise the format, saying it was a bad programming decision and jeopardised the integrity of the broadcast.
But Prime7 network news director Doug Hogan said the show allowed the channel to provide a national news service produced specifically for regional NSW.
“Prime7 has provided news to the central west for over 50 years, and over that time we have always worked to provide the most relevant service,” he said.
But Mr Dally said the channel was “localising it the wrong way”.
“They’d be better off having a local Orange station,” he said.
“It’s a vague attempt at making it appear more local.”
The repackaged show is the latest blow for regional TV news viewers after rival network WIN axed its Dubbo office in November.
Mr Dally said neither bulletins were as local as they were in the past.
“They haven’t got as many people on the ground doing it as they used to,” he said.
“We’re not getting as much local news ... if I want to find something more local I refer to the local paper.”
“They’d be better off having a local Orange station ... it’s a vague attempt at making it appear more local"
Since the change at least 17 people have criticised the new format on the channel’s Facebook page and said they had switched channels.
Only one said they preferred the news fronted by a “local”.
But Mr Hogan said official ratings indicated the bulletins’ viewer numbers were as strong as ever and viewers were not missing out on the extra half hour of national news their city counterparts received.
“We have provided a 30-minute national news for many years, and we are continuing to do that,” he said.
“Our experienced editorial team at 6.30 ensure all of the important issues of the day are reported.
“We do deliver substantial local content, but as for better [than WIN], that’s a judgment for viewers to make.”