Until now, the station had purchased the entire programming output of two networks (Nine & Ten), but could never use all the shows it was paying for.
“This change means a 50% saving in program costs for the station,” said Mr Feehan. Imparja says it will re-direct savings into locally produced content including a new, locally produced, weekly current-affairs program to begin in March.
Imparja will also drop its nightly local news service in favour of a national news stream from Brisbane. Mr Feehan said the station was also expanding its news service. An additional journalist has been employed to research and produce regular local news updates.
As a result of the Nine affiliation, the audience in a viewing area spanning regional Northern Territory and Queensland will longer have access to TEN programmes including Neighbours, So You Think You Can Dance Australia, Big Brother, House and Australian Idol.
AFL fans will also be hit by missing half of the free-to-air telecasts. With 60% of its viewers in Queensland, NRL on Nine takes precedence. It also leaves the AFL Grand Final for 2009 in the balance. AFL arrangements allow Seven and TEN to rotate the Final, due on Seven in 2008.
TEN has been affiliated with Imparja since 1988. In 2006 when a 17-year-old schoolgirl named Jessica Mauboy was discovered at the Alice Springs audition for Australian Idol her home region rallied its support. Mauboy finished second in the competition, something that may not have happened without guaranteed coverage of Australian Idol.
In 2001, Darwin TV station Channel 8 changed ownership and became part of the PBL empire, switching to Nine programming. It caused an uproar in the city as people missed out on regular programs such as Neighbours. The show didn’t return until 2005 when it was picked up by Southern Cross Darwin.
Mr Feehan said Imparja sincerely regretted that old favourites such as The Bold & The Beautiful, House and Neighbours would not be returning this year. However the station aims to help bring back TEN programming to the Outback.
“In the next few years we expect the Government to rule on a third commercial TV licence in our area, and we’ll be playing an active role to get TEN’s shows back on air,” said Mr Feehan.