Regional news took centre stage at Nine's star-studded 2017 program launch, with the network revealing details of bulletins which will beam out to Canberra, Wollongong, Orange, Wagga Wagga and regional Victoria.
Three regional presenters - Vanessa O’Hanlon, Jo Hall and Samantha Heathwood - were announced at the annual network launch, held at Sydney's Star casino to give advertisers a sneak peek at the year to come.
Featuring prominently in a presentation involving many of the network’s biggest stars, was confirmation 15 regional Nine News weekday bulletins will air from February.
Ms O’Hanlon, the ABC’s national weather presenter, will work out of Nine’s Sydney studios as the face of news in Canberra, Wollongong, the Central West and Wagga, while Ms Heathwood – a Nine reporter and former WIN News presenter – will present six regional bulletins from Brisbane.
Veteran journalist and former Nine News Melbourne newsreader Jo Hall will present the news in Ballarat, Bendigo, Albury/Shepparton and Gippsland.
Speaking to Fairfax Media at the Nine launch, the women said the hour-long bulletins – which will have about 12 to 15 minutes of local content mixed with state and national news – would be tailored to each regional centre.
“Basically this will be one hour of the best regional stories, the best metro, state and national news, condensed into one bulletin made perfectly for them,” Ms Heathwood said.
“It will be a lot less parochial, it’s only the stories that mean more to them. They’ll have their own journalists out there, and it’s great for the industry too to see so many journalists being employed.”
Head of Nine News Regional Mike Dalton said the anchors would present local content from three or four reporters and two camera crews working out of each region from early next year.
“It’s going to be a staggered roll out, we’re going to launch into Canberra first which is a nod to [Nine’s affiliate partner] Southern Cross, that’s their home market,” he said.
“That’s going to launch in the first week of February, and then roll in Wollongong and the Illawarra the second week, then Orange, Bathurst and Dubbo the third week, then in the fourth week go into Wagga etc.”
While Nine’s move will introduce direct competition for many of WIN’s local news bulletins for the first time in years, Mr Dalton said that had “not been the focus” of the network’s regional push.
“We’re just focused on what we’re going to do, but we’re in there for the long haul, this is a long term commitment,” he said.
“Local communities can’t get enough of local news, they deserve it and our research has shown there’s an appetite for it.”