Channel Nine News is to end its tradition of having a permanent European correspondent. Reporter James Talia, who has been based in London, will conclude the position at the end of September.
The move follows cost-cutting in the Channel Nine News department that has also seen Sunday and Nightline axed.
In speaking to the weekly television podcast, Boxcutters, Talia said Nine had opted to go down the same road as Channel Seven in deciding to run without a European correspondent.
“They’ve decided there’s no longer a need for a presence in Europe. I was told about this some weeks ago at the time Sunday and Nightline were axed. And it’s clear that there’s a fair bit of financial pressure around for Channel Nine at the moment.
“I think I said at the time about Sunday and Nightline that from a news and current affairs point of view it was very sad, but I think we all have to be realistic about the difficulties of running a free to air network right now and I have to say the same thing about the situation I find myself in,” he said.
Nine had already been trimming back on production crew for its correspondents utilising freelance cameraman and requiring reporters to add more administrative tasks in place of office staff.
“Once all the staff were gone and there wasn’t even a staff cameraman anymore it became a hell of a lot tougher just to get things done day to day,” said Talia.
“I think we have had an advantage over Channel Seven. Clearly it’s not enough of an advantage to warrant continuing when you consider that the competition is so intense among the networks in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
Talia, who has been with Nine since 1999, said international news feeds were now much more advanced and commonplace than in previous years -an advance that has contributed to the decision by Nine.
“Compared to 20 years ago there’s a lot more material available now. We have a permanent line open from London to Sydney on the satellite and on fibres and Sky News comes down that line from London 24 hours a day. So unless it’s an Australian-themed story that Sky isn’t covering that story can just as easily be done out of Sydney. Yes it’s preferable to have an Australian voice and face on that story from London but it’s not completely necessary anymore.
“Having said that, when the big ones happen, people will be scrambling for planes which is what Channel Seven has done for the past four years.”
Nine still has two US correspondents in Rob Penfold and Peter Stefanovic, both of whom are based in Los Angeles.
In ending its European correspondent, this means the only Australian commercial network with a correspondent in London will soon be Network TEN.
TEN established a correspondent last year with Sydney reporter Danielle Isdale. Talia said her appointment had been very successful for TEN.
“She’s on her own using freelance camera people and doing a lot of it herself, but they’re very, very happy with that arrangement and they’re still going to be getting the yarns out of Europe, which is kind of ironic.”
When Talia finishes his European tenure, he plans to have a few weeks’ holiday before returning to the Melbourne newsroom.
“There have been points over the last few weeks when I have considered myself lucky just to still have a job at all. They could have very easily laid me off.