ABC News Breakfast: “We send you off smarter”

news breakfast 3Since November last year there’s been more than one, or even two ways to start your day. ABC2 has been broadcasting ABC News Breakfast since the US election week, providing a serious alternative to Sunrise and Today.

Being on a digital channel it can’t compete head to head with the commercial kingpins, but it is attracting growing respect.

Broadcasting from Melbourne each weekday from 6am to 9am, the show offers news, comment, interviews and analysis for those who are dissatisfied with the light entertainment approaches by Nine and Seven.

TV Tonight recently swung by the set to speak with hosts Virginia Trioli, Joe O’Brien and producer Ben D’Arcy.

“The loveliest thing I’ve heard in the last few months from people who’ve come across from the commercial stations as well as people who’ve come from Sky, is that you can have an informative, on the money, news-focussed programme that’s still entertaining,” says Trioli. “We’re still good company. I think that’s a balance that’s very hard to strike and I think we hit it consistently.

“We draw on the resources of the ABC which are far flung, both local and regional, bringing all of those perspectives and points of view. There are different news interests from around the country and around the world. Just by definition, it gives you an interesting show, because you’re opening more and more windows for your viewer each time they come back to you.”

news breakfast 5Co-host Joe O’Brien agrees their programme doesn’t seek to mirror its commercial rivals.

“We don’t have the Hollywood cross. Britney and Paris aren’t a big focus for us. The ABC has an amazing network of international correspondents. We love giving them as much coverage as possible and showcasing ABC content that people may not have seen,” he says.

Newsmakers and politicians are a significant focus for Breakfast, as morning interviews resonate with News Editors around the country.

“Stephen Smith the Foreign Minister made an interesting observation,” says Trioli. “He said, ‘What’s great is if you’ve really got a message you want to get out there, if you make your point well by the 7PM News your grab is still running. If you stuff it up, by the 7PM News your grab is still running.’ So it’s a ‘nowhere to hide’ programme. It’s an open forum where all those news stories can get debated, and debated quickly and in real time. So that really sets the news agenda for the day, which is terrific.”

“There are repeatedly grabs lifted from our programme that are the basis for stories in the 7:00 bulletin each night,” says O’Brien. “And it’s really heartening to hear from journalists now that they tune in to make sure they are across the main stories of the day. We are the news programme of the day they’re turning to.”

Producer Ben D’Arcy, who starts work at the ‘luxurious’ time of 5am (3 hours after his production team), says Canberra is regularly paying attention to the show.

“It’s an important news-making programme as well. You’re not just turning on the watch the news delivered to you, you’re watching the news being made by the big interviews of the day.”

D’Arcy sees Sky News as a competitor more than the commercial offerings, due to its news focus. It now outrates Sky in the timeslot, recently hitting its best audience of the year with a weekly reach of 230,000 (individuals per 5 minute viewings).

news breakfast2Drawing upon the ABC resources, D’Arcy and his production team, most of whom are in their 30s, must react to news as it breaks. This was especially relevant during the Black Saturday bushfires.

“We were the first programme to show live pictures from the devastated town of Marysville. That was ground-breaking. It was something that changed the entire story at that point. Had we not been there then that story wouldn’t have been told, at least not until a lot later in the day,” he says.

News Breakfast was also the first TV show in Australia to incorporate Twitter into its programme.

“It’s very important for our programme that we enter into a conversation with our audience,” says D’Arcy. “We’re on a digital channel so therefore we have to sometimes accept that we have to reach out to viewers rather than just accept they will come.

“It also enables people to have their own conversation about the programme too. If there are issues running in the news there’s somewhere they can go to talk.”

D’Arcy said Twitter also enabled the show to be a day ahead of the rest of the pack on the Fiji flood story, by tipping him off to a story to pursue.

As well as Trioli and O’Brien, News Breakfast has a team of rotating contributors and additional cast members, weather presenter Vanessa O’Hanlon and sports presenter, Paul Kennedy.

“Paul Kennedy is a brilliant presenter and it’s great to have him on board,” says O’Brien. “It gives the show a bit of light and shade instead of being totally news-focussed. We’ve got good sports discussion every half hour with Paul.”

Adds Trioli, “We have really generous contributors who get up at a dreadful hour to come in and intelligently read the papers with a really accessible and interesting media analysis. There’s great goodwill and generosity towards the programme.”

Contributors help comprise some of the analytical segments that fill the programme around news updates. Viewers who tune in between 7 – 8, or 8 – 9 are likely to catch key segments that viewers saw between 6 – 7, much like Sky News meets a fluctuating audience.

“Our programme is broken up in that way. You can only give us 15 minutes of a morning while you’re dashing in and feeding the kids,” says Trioli.

“Hopefully in that time we send you off smarter on the way to work.”

news breakfast fedsqABC News Breakfast airs 6am-9am weekdays on ABC2.

23 Comments:

  1. Well I’m pleased that the table-top computers have now gone, but the graphics both on-set and as intros remain absolutely ridiculous, and quite off-putting. I suggested previously that the designer was smoking something illegal, and unfortunately he has not yet kicked the habit! Please think again, ABC. Why show the harbour bridge half- decapitated? Look at the class of set design on “insiders”… elegant but simple, and not something distasteful that would appear on a pavement outside a late-closing pub. Do we reqire reminding at breakfast of what we shouldn’t have indulged in the previous night? I think not!
    Many comments relate to the show’s ‘dullness”, and to a certain degree they may be correct. I suggest the presenters get up off their couch, move around… do warm-up exercises or arm-wrestle if they must but let us see some Movement; some animation… remind us that these presenters are human and not simply well researched robots. Give us see some interest. Mere talking heads are in fact boring.
    And what happened to Virginia? If only she’d stop talking as fast as a chaff cutting machine! But she and Michael do team together so well.
    I will say that the ABC has the makings of a winner here, but more imagination is necessary. But please do not go stupid with mindless gimmicks that are served up (along with endless ads), of Sunrise and Nine’s effort.
    Kind Regards,
    Ron Copeland, Christmas Island. Off WA (We are still part of Australia, we locals think, but can’t be certain of that)

  2. I like that this show is boring. Most viewers are caught up in a rat race style of competition with Today and Sunrise to see what celeb is screwing who. Unless you consider those stories unintentional comedies which can be laughed at then you’re feeding your brain with useless crap just like fast food.

  3. About 20,000 people a day watch it. That tells you how bad it is.
    Something is wrong when the national broadcaster makes a show that so few Australians want to watch and it’s acceptable

    But Breakfast talks “reach” – and they say they have a reach of 230,000 viewers a week. By that count, Sunrise & Today would both have a reach of over 3 million each.

    That puts it in perspective.

  4. Russel, quality and ABC are no longer synonymous.

    Drive that dollar further, less people (who know what they are doing) and more technology (well PCs and dodgy software I guess, judging by media watch), equals TV you snooze to.

  5. I love this show. Is it dull – when compared to today and sunrise – yes. But i dont care – it’s just what i want in the morning. gotta agree with changing the graphics though 🙂

  6. Thats a great story and interview David. I think the show has bean a succes story. Critics love to tear into its information heavy style but the other choices on free to air are garbage and everyone knows it. Whenever I see Sunrise it is Paris this, Britney that. Product promotion, cross promotion. Kochie being an idiot.

    I think a show like this is important to give choice. It would certainly not leave viewers dumbed down on their way to work. I think its popularity will grow further.

  7. I have tried convince my partner to kick the Sunrise habit and watch ABC News Brekkie.

    If the ABC did a nation-wide traffic report, she would be there with bells on.

    Also, she claims that Sunrise goes better with the morning xanax. 🙂

  8. Russell.. It’s not made to be watched from beginning to end.. It’s designed to be watched for 20-30 mins in the morning while you have your “Breakfast”.. Who on earth eats breakfast for 3 hrs.. That’s why they talk about their reach, and not their overall ratings.. And in any case.. the ABC don’t care about ratings.. so what does it matter.. It’s a very good alternative to sunrise and today, for those who want to see a bit more serious news..

  9. @ Michael, no Russell does not work for Seven or Nine!

    @ Stan, while yes I believe the show is beyond dull, as do most others, my actual criticism is more how amateurish this show is. I love the idea of a hard hitting news show from ABC. I love it. But this is executed so badly. The idea is there – these people just have no idea how to make good television though.

    Breakfast moves at a snail’s pace. That does not translate to it needed to have Hollywood updates and jokes of the day. I am not saying this show need to be dumbed down. Not at all. Not for a second. I am saying they need to look at how quality hard news breakfast programming is done around the world.

    I’m not saying it needs to be entertaining, I’m saying it needs to be well produced. There is no quality check here.

  10. Russell, do you want to give us your ‘joke of the day’ while you’re here?

    I notice that the major criticism directed towards News Breakfast is its ‘dullness.’ Why do news programmes have to be entertaining? Is it because Sunrise & Today have lowered the bar to such a degree, we’re not happy until they all look like ‘Hey Hey It’s a Weekday’?

    Some of us have done some growing up since we watched cartoons in the morning before school… While other “adults” have got a little way to go.

  11. I need something to wake me up in the morning… my partner watches this and all I have to say is they could bottle this news program and sell it to insomniacs to help them sleep!!!

  12. I liked this show when I was able to watch it but now I live in an area where I don’t have access to digital TV so I can’t watch anymore. You would think that all the ABC networks should be available to everyone in this country!!

  13. Maybe ABC Breakfast is somewhat dull, but if you don’t want your breakfast TV moronically dumbed down (as it currently is on 7 and 9) with ad breaks every 5 or 6 minutes, watch it. It should really be moved to ABC1.

  14. Actually they can say they have far more viewers than “Today” & “Sunrise” combined when the huge Asia-Pacific audience is taken in. In the Pacific alone they’re seen on FTA local TV in Fiji, Solomons, Samoa, Niue, Vanuatu, Cook Isls, Tonga, etc., etc., and across China, India, Pakistan, etc. In many places they’re on the sole FTA channel.

  15. “We draw on the resources of the ABC which are far flung, both local and regional, bringing all of those perspectives and points of view.”

    No, ‘perspective’ in the singular – the ABC is lefty garbage.

  16. Oh boy, this story is going to spark a lot of debate! (The dumbing down of Sunrise & Today V the intelligence of Breakfast) Just because this show does not feature Hollywood crosses and cooking segments does not make it the superior show. Sure, it may have more “hard” news than Today & Sunrise. But does that make it a better show? A show of higher quality? I’ve watched Breakfast and I am just floored at how dull it is. The subject matter, the interviews, the hosts, the content. The production standards and overall quality of the show is just very weak. It’s very obvious it’s produced by a team of junior producers who really just don’t now how to make quality news television.

    Breakfast may cover “harder” news, but do they do it well? The answer I think has to be no. This show uses the argument that it is more “intelligent” to hide the fact that it is amateurish television. Fox & Friends, Morning Joe & American Morning all cover hard news more than Breakfast, and do it exceptionally well. Breakfast producers need to take a look at those shows. If they maintain hell bent on being the intelligent news offering in the morning, at least do it well.

    2 other things. I love how the producers of this show always talks “reach” to make his ratings sound bigger. Can we compare apples to apples so we can get a clear comparison of just how many people watch this show? If they are so proud of the show, let’ see some honest ratings as to how many people actually watch the show. The way ratings are reported for – gee – i dunno – every other show on TV! I suspect it is still well under 20,000 viewers a day. “Prime News Tamworth” probably has more viewers. Let’s keep it in perspective!

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