Year

1998

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

University of Wollongong - Graduate School of Journalism

Abstract

This thesis examines the implementation into regional Australian television of the policy known as equalisation. It places the implementation of the policy in context with significant developments since the introduction of regional television in Australia, and analyses h o w by 1997 the aggregation of services had affected individual television markets in four states. It also considers the effect of aggregation on the practice of journalism in regional television newsrooms.

The thesis documents the steps that led to equalisation including the debate over the proposed satellite distribution of television services across Australia, the formulation of a draft plan for the equalisation of services, and various government studies and reports. It also examines how aggregation changed the operations of regional television newsrooms and their staff through the following factors:

• Major structural changes to the industry including the establishment and closure of stations and/or newsrooms

• The onset of competition in aggregated markets

• Changes in the importance of "localism" on television

• The impact of cost-cutting and reduced resources

• The regional stations' increased reliance on their metropolitan affiliates.

It also contains a case study of the development of one regional television news service: WTN Television's service in western New South Wales.

The thesis shows that while there are differing schools of thought on the benefits of aggregation, the equalisation policy forever changed "local" television, and created a new environment for those w h o chose the regional television industry as their career. While the policy led to new opportunities in the form of additional news services in some regions and a wider program choice for viewers, it resulted in a general trend away from coverage of parochial issues and a decline in the quality of news stories because of stretched resources. The viewing audience might have been the main beneficiary of aggregation, but it could be argued that the loser was quality regional television programming in general and news in particular.

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