Current affairs taste test: ACA vs TT vs 7PM

They're always comparing brands, so TV Tonight turns the tables and tests A Current Affair, Today Tonight & The 7PM Project. How do they stack up?

They dominate our television viewing every weeknight with stories on supermarket prices, celebrities, diets, road rules, beautiful homes, technology and network cross promos.

But did A Current Affair and Today Tonight reflect the stories that dominated media headlines last week: Racism in sport, World Cup, Sydney plane crash, Rudd’s declining popularity, Obama’s stance against BP, proposed Mining Tax. Just one News headline was featured by both:  the David Jones CEO scandal.

In contrast The 7PM Project raised several in discussion, if sometimes briefly and lightly.

TV Tonight spent the week looking at the stories that make up the three commercial shows and found that while Consumer stories dominate the Nine and Seven offerings, TEN’s newcomer is tackling more News stories as it approaches its first anniversary on air.

Some stories on A Current Affair and Today Tonight were almost identical, even airing at the same time.

On Monday TT had a story on “grey army” vigilantes in Tweed Heads taking action against street gangs while ACA profiled a man who had been assaulted in Coolongatta.  Both featured stories on the power of big supermarkets on Wednesday. On Thursday there were stories on McDonald’s burgers shrinking in size being broadcast at exactly the same time. Both used video footage by irate customer Leo Henry, who was interviewed only by Today Tonight.

On Friday both led with the breaking story of the David Jones CEO, a seemingly tailor-made topic. Both had Stephen Mayne from the Australian Shareholders Association giving quotes, making it difficult to determine a point of difference. Similarly, Steve Price was a panellist on The 7PM Project and also interviewed for comment by Today Tonight.

Neither Tracy Grimshaw nor Matt White conducted any studio interviews last week (although Grimshaw featured in a story on anti-terror training on Monday night). Just one politician was interviewed by any of the three shows all week: Bob Katter on The 7PM Project.

Today Tonight featured two cross-promo stories on Australia’s Got Talent plus Breaking the Magician’s Code, while The 7PM Project had two on Hamish & Andy (also produced by Roving Enterprises), one story with the Barefoot Investor (which also features on the network), a ONE commentator and several references to its own successful bid of Kevin Rudd at the Canberra Press Gallery’s Mid-Winter Ball charity auction. There were several guests from ABC, SBS and Foxtel.

ACA featured one report in which its own reporter was a significant part of the story and also drew upon credited ABC footage twice. It also used a clip from Are You Being Served? for its story on the David Jones CEO while Today Tonight showed Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino for its story on Tweed Heads violence.

The 7PM Project (with guest host Dr. Andrew Rochford) regularly featured humourous video clips and outtakes, most introduced by Dave Hughes whose segues are becoming as creative as those by Anna Coren once-mocked on The Chaser. Today Tonight had several short items with Matt White in voice-over to vision and Samantha Armytage hosted Friday’s edition. A Current Affair had one night with Grimshaw hosting on location, on the Gold Coast, telling viewers she was on assignment for an upcoming story. Rochford’s ads for an Insurance company also ran during The 7PM Project.

In terms of popularity, Today Tonight won all five nights averaging 1.45m, ACA averaged 1.17m and The 7PM Project averaged 942,000 viewers.

TV Tonight approached all three shows and asked them to identify their “Best Story” for the week.

Craig Campbell, Executive Producer for The 7PM Project said, “Our Organ Donation story was about courage and hope, and I believe if only a few people who watched it start to consider their position on organ donation then we have achieved something worthwhile. We always want our items to make you feel something, for us it’s not just about facts and talking heads, we want our audience to feel emotion and get drawn into the story.

“Our panel always have the opportunity to add opinion into the story as well, and Thursday with a group of parents who also happen to be a doctor, comedian, and a couple of journalists you got a real discussion surrounding the issues attached to organ donation in our country. Opinions and discussion that I hope made people think of their position.”

Grant Williams, Executive Producer of A Current Affair, spoke about the difficulties of directly following a News bulletin, including one which increasingly covers similar terrain.

Williams also told TV Tonight TEN should be commended for sticking with a new concept and said he was a fan of both Carrie Bickmore and Dave Hughes. However he defended Nine’s long-running format.

“I’m not sure ACA or TT would become more popular or worthy programs by abandoning their existing styles and instead asking three comedians and a well regarded journalist from the ABC or SBS into the studio each night, to sit with Tracy Grimshaw or Matt White and talk for half an hour about what they watched that night on TEN’s 5 o’clock news,” he said.

“I don’t think you can compare 7PM Project with the two 6.30pm shows. We were never compared to The Panel when Working Dog was making that.”

Campbell agreed his show was not looking to be compared but was a “reactive” news show.

“We’ve actually never been in the game to try and compete. We have the luxury of being able to talk about stories. It’s not like Tracy or Matt can come back and have a conversation with themselves. The most important point of difference for us is that we can talk stories rather than have to produce a taped story about it.”

He said the show was driven by daily topics from newspapers and talk radio, added with opinion.

“We very much like posing a question and trying to answer it ourselves and get an expert who is going to further the conversation at home,” he said.

Williams identified a ten minute story with Walkley-winner Tracy Grimshaw profiling the work of the NSW Police Counter Terrorism Unit as his Best Story of the week.

ACA connects with real people every day of the week….and covers real stories that impact upon everyday Australian families. We also do our fair share of hip-pocket stories because that’s what many families are looking for and in fairness they are some of our highest rating stories.”

But while The 7PM Project may provide commentary on news and current affairs, in nearly a year of episodes it is yet to “break” a story that resonates in the landscape.

Says Williams, “We have broken countless stories this year including the Hey Dad Scandal for which we were even applauded by Media Watch. Those are the things that set us apart from the rest. Good luck to The 7PM Project. I wish them all the best. I just hope they stay away from supermarket stories.”

Craig McPherson, Executive Producer of Today Tonight, issued a statement to TV Tonight: “One of the best stories this week would be Walkley-award winner Tim Noonan’s expose on the child gangs taking over Tweed Heads. Tim spent several weeks with the victims, the police and the child gangs on the streets of Tweed, capturing the explosive situation from all sides. ACA did a spoiler piece on Coolangatta crime this week as a result.”

Both stories identified by ACA and Today Tonight also kicked off their week, as the lead story 6:30pm on Monday, both billed as ‘Exclusives.’

Please note the following are subjective summaries of the stories broadcast on all three shows:

Monday June 14
A Current Affair
Anti-terror-training camp for police
The Dukan diet
Coolongatta street violence
Make Up tests

Today Tonight
Senior-aged vigilantes against rebellious youths in Tweed Heads
Push to simplify speed zones
Socceroos loss
Supercar Club liquidation
Breaking the Magician’s Code

The 7PM Project
Queen’s Birthday Honours
Socceroos loss / World Cup clips
Japanese space capsule lands in South Australia
A night with ambulances
Hamish & Andy in London

Tue Jun 15
A Current Affair
WA man on racial vilification charge turns the cameras on ACA reporter
Mega Malls
Chocolate ban on school fundraisers
Man wants govt to pay for tummy tuck surgery
Kinnect: video games without controllers

Today Tonight
David Jones v Myer ‘retail espionage’
Road potholes neglected by councils
Fightback campaign: Australia’s Worst House
Fightback campaign: Charges laid against defrauded dentist
Talent show discoveries / Australia’s Got Talent finalists
The world’s 3 best diets

The 7PM Project
Vuvuzelas at the World Cup
Racism row surrounding Andrew Johns
Bullfighting clip
Kevin Rudd Press Conference clips
‘Helicopter’ parents ‘wrapping kids in cotton wool’
Pups in prisons program
Kitty Flanagan comedy spot

Wed June 16
A Current Affair
Supermarket price comparisons
E3 video gaming expo
Baby ban at cafe
Dental work for Dreamworld tiger
Best face creams

Today Tonight
Independent supermarket bought out by Coles
New technology in Home Entertainment games
Home Loan exit fees
Australia’s Got Talent winners
Mum teaches daughter pole-dancing
Cosmetic surgery with stem cells not implants

The 7PM Project
Mid-Winter Ball charity auction
BP oil disaster
NBA player becomes ONE commentator
Barefoot Investor money advice
Swearing ban in Queensland

Thu June 17
A Current Affair
Are McDonald’s burgers getting smaller?
Tax investigation into Paul Hogan
Bakery breads vs Supermarket breads
Man arrested for defending son before Qld Police
Push for dual pedals for nervous passengers

Today Tonight
Woman arrested after complaint to McDonalds / Are Big Macs getting smaller?
Good Samaritans: would you help or ignore?
Allergies affecting children on the rise
$610m in unclaimed money
Ownership dispute over meteorite rock
Grandmother wants teen mums to give up children

The 7PM Project
State of Origin result
Mal Brown explains offensive AFL remark
Get Up’s Riz Wakil to go surfing with Tony Abbott
Cluey high school student tells media not to speculate about school fire
World Cup clip: Harry Kewell
Profile on organ donation campaign
Hamish and Andy UK tour
Sneezing bear cliip

Friday June 18
A Current Affair
David Jones CEO scandal
Don’t pay full price for grocery items
Invention to detect early cancer
Australia’s most beautiful homes
Designer wear for tots

Today Tonight
David Jones CEO scandal
Corporate leaders sleeping out for CEO Sleepout
Resident complains about Insurance assessor who turned up drunk
Backstage at Miss Universe Australia
Retirees spending big on extreme holidays

The 7PM Project
Miss Universe Australia slip up, politician bloopers
Man given 30 days jail for using bubble gum in court
Kevin Rudd jokes on 7:30 Report
Tara Moss talks crime and new Foxtel series
US proposal to shutdown internet in emergencies
Metro Whip around
Sports results

49 Responses

  1. All of the shows that report the anomolies of society don’t show the full picture. They don’t entertain me, apart from laughing at the rubbish on A.C.A. The 7 pm project is not very good in my opinion. In conclusion I am the typical 14 year old. A small minority of us only like Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga. We also are embarassed by the stereotype of most teens liking Twilight, only girls like it for the pervfest and gawking at the guys.

  2. Im a bit of a current affair junkie ,lol, i live in regional aus so we get TT at 5 , ACA at 630 and the 7 project at 7, works out well.. tt and aca can get frustrating tho with some of there stories being identical..

  3. The 7pm project is great.I sometime watch if there is a story of importance on that was not covered on Ten’s 5pm News Bulletin or If I happen to be home for it which is about twice a week.I am part of the generation who watches Simpsons and Neighbours between 6 and 7pm having seen the earlier News at 5pm before switching to the ABC Kids offerings to fill the time between at 5:30pm so don’t care for the traditional current affairs offerings over at 7 or 9.I will sometimes on a Tuesday Night watch Foreign Correspondent or Insight.

  4. I think 7PM is closer to Hungry Beast than ACA/TT. It’s common knowledge that TT/ACA is absolute rubbish, but recently I have been noticing some 7PM’s promos have the sensationalism that I would expect from the other two like “The fish on the Great Barrier Reef are being killed…by You! *sinister music*”. I really hope it’s not a sign of things to come. Also, I would appreciate it if they got rid of the anti-Rudd bias.

    Despite this, I quite enjoy 7PM. It’s a lighter take on the news and it’s quite entertaining. Even with it’s flaws, it still beats ACA and TT. Sure, it’s not exactly 4 Corners but I don’t really go to a bunch of comedians for serious/hardcore news coverage. It goes against the show’s brief of discussing and p**s-taking the news in a palatable manner.

  5. I agree with aznfratboy 100%. How people here can put the 7pm Project above TT/ACA is astonishing. The 7pm Project is right at the bottom of the heap trying to appeal to a very young and unintelligent demographic with trying to be ‘cool’ their number one priority, TT/ACA is aimed at the masses, the ordinary everyday folk offering interesting everyday consumer stories that concerns us all and that we can relate to and that’s why it rates. The 7.30 Report/4 Corners etc is for the intellectuals, the upper classes and again they fall into the minority hence their much lower ratings. It’s not hard to see why TT/ACA rates because they talk to the people and it is aimed at everybody at the masses.

  6. I reckon 7pm project has their mix pretty much right at the moment – they are not trying to be ABC news or 7.30 report, but cover a solid mix of news of the day and albeit slightly expanded backgrounders with a live cross or phoner to somewhere in the world, or a credible expert or commentator. ACA and TT don’t seem to care about that credibility – Ben Fordham’s macho stand ups and bullying techniques are just embarrassing, and TT is not much better. I think 7pm hosts are coping better with the brevity of items and interviews, but Dave for me is still a weak link. As much as I like Charlie, I really enjoyed Dr Dimples hosting last week – he brings some substance and warmth. Jennifer Byrne and George Negus are pretty impressive panelists. It really is carving out its own place in the schedule.

  7. @aznfratboy
    7pmproject for stupid people, the illiterate and the uneducated?
    That’s a bit harsh isn’t it? I think the younger demographic is probably a better generalisation. I watch it and i’m not stupid, illiterate or uneducated. And just because someone watches the 7.30 report, it doesn’t guarantee that they’re smart, literate or educated.

  8. I find the 7pm project mildly entertaining, it’s not really teh same as ACA/TT, and I hope it can continue to rise above those two disgraceful bogan shows. Mind you, I’ve never watched the whole thing, I just surf in from time to time.

    When the 7pm Project starts coming up with lame reasons to run Tit Stories, the shark will have been jumped. I don’t think they’ll do that though.

  9. i cannot stand A Current Affair/Today Tonight!!! it drives me mad that unintelligent c**p like this is on our tv every night… and the worst part is… it’s on because it rates well!!!

    who the hell are the people watching this fluff night after night? they need to do something else and exercise their minds instead of wasting away in the zombie land of these shows…

    i dont watch it regularly, but atleast 7PM (while not perfect) makes an effort to be something more and make ppl think about things going on in the world… not just the size of their big mac

  10. 7pm Project is for the stupid people, the illiterate and the uneducated, ACA and TT are for the simple people, the people middle of the range people, 7:30 Report is the way to go, it hits the big issues, not which soccer player cried because his cologne wore off or which restaurant Britney Spears ate at last night, they discuss topics such as how we can avoid the GFC, or how we can steer clear of terrorist attacks.

  11. Great analysis David. I watch 7PM and I like that it gives a general gist of the day’s news. It’s quite good at offering some discussion and interviews concerning topical issues, and the bursts of humour make it easier to watch.

    I don’t watch ACA or TT but it looks like I’m missing out on heaps. “The world’s 3 best diets,” “best face creams,” “Maccas burgers”… fascinating. Ick.

  12. I don’t think you can compare 7PM with TT and ACA. Ten doesn’t have anything like ACA and TT and Seven and Nine don’t have anything like 7PM. It’s like comparing Seven’s 6pm news with Nine’s 11am news hour.

  13. I agree with BM-Dog and Jason D – whilst 7PM is pretty good (5.5 / 10 IMO) I am getting concerned with their total lack of facts in some areas – obviously they have a younger audience and I shudder to think that people watching will be taking their misinformation as gospel.

    What excuse do you have in this day and age to not do some basic fact checking?

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