Gallery: 20 years of Lateline

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the ABC’s late night current affairs show, Lateline.

Based on Nightline with Ted Koppel, the series was created in 1990 by ABC journalist Ian Carroll, currently Director of Innovation for the ABC.

Its hosts have included Kerry O’Brien, Maxine McKew, Tony Jones, Virginia Trioli and Leigh Sales, plus Quentin Dempster, Lisa Millar and Tamara Oudyn.

ABC Press Release:

The ABC has marked the 20th anniversary of its flagship late night news and current affairs program, Lateline, with a special function at its Ultimo headquarters last night.

Speaking to an audience that included the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, and ABC Chairman, Maurice Newman, the ABC’s Managing Director, Mark Scott, described Lateline as a textbook example of the broadcaster’s ability to marry innovation and quality.

“The ABC faced enormous challenges in getting Lateline to air. Its success revolutionised the media sector, demonstrating how technology, talent and a certain amount of courage can yield results,” Mr Scott said.

“By embracing then nascent satellite technology, the ABC was able to deliver its audiences a quality mix of news, current affairs and analysis on a truly international scale. The live international cross – a concept unimaginable a few years before – became Lateline’s staple.”

In its 20 years on air, Lateline has established a reputation as a national leader in news reporting and analysis, receiving widespread acclaim for innovative reporting, investigative journalism and in-depth interviewing.

On February 13, 1990, the first Lateline program presented by Kerry O’Brien went to air from Parliament House in Canberra. It was promoted as ‘a totally new type of current affairs program for Australian television’ and pioneered the use of multi-satellite interviews in which a single topic was discussed at length by several people in a studio-based debate.

Under the stewardship of founding executive producer Ian Carroll (currently the ABC’s Director of Innovation) the program promised ‘to provide a thoroughly professional and rigorous journalistic agenda’. The program ran for three nights a week, from Tuesdays to Thursdays at 10.35pm.

In 1991, the program did a three-part ‘Soviet Special’ series in the lead-up to the coup in Moscow. Lateline won its first Walkley Award for the series.

Since those early years, the program has broken many stories, interviewed a host of national and international leaders and won six more Walkley Awards for excellence in journalism, including two Walkleys in 2005 for investigative journalism and TV current affairs.

Tony Jones presents Lateline on Wednesdays and Thursdays, (due to his Q and A program commitments on ABC1) and Leigh Sales presents on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

View some of the video highlights from the last 20 years at years


  1. Lateline and Lateline Business have pretty much become the only current affairs shows I watch now (because of convenience & quality). Im sure the show will keep going strong for many years to come. Leigh Sales is a very talented host.

  2. I am in the proud position of having worked on Lateline with Kerry in 1992 and 1993. It was, and is a great tv program. I was in genuine awe at how Kerry would turn his mind to a completely new subject each night, and conduct a really indepth interview one night on a rural crisis and the next on world politics, the arts or science. Great team of journos too – the best! It’s what the ABC does best!

  3. Best news show on TV. @nelly that was Christopher Hitchings. In a separate interview between Tony Jones & Hitchings, Jones described Hitchings as ‘tired and emotional’ on that particular night. (may not be a direct quote but that was the gist)

  4. time for new graphics and supers, surely. the content is great (except when they have bob brown on)… but surely they could make it a little more visually appealing…

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