The baton has been passed. 7:30 in safe hands.
Red Kerry may be gone but we now have Red Leigh and an even redder backdrop in the new-look current affairs show, formerly known as The 7:30 Report (or as Kevin Rudd once dubbed it “7:30 Reportland”).
The opening shot of Leigh Sales standing before a big video screen rather reminded me of Today Tonight, but as soon as she began on the feature story, about the state of our naval flotilla, it was clear there would be no dumbing down of stories. It was a case of steady as she goes.
The top story presented a grim picture of our naval boats, likening some to neglected “rust buckets” with many absent during the Cyclone Yasi emergency. It was followed by an interview between Chris Uhlmann in Canberra and Defence Minister Stephen Smith in Perth. The show was clearly keen to land a punch on its first outing and whilst it may not have left anybody down on the mat, it won the first round.
Sales then interviewed ABC correspondent Ben Knight via phone on Libyan unrest. Any fears of introducing Skype and other whiz-bang hi tech were disspelled. It must have been a consideration not to run with the story on the first night given the relative lack of vision, but it smartly settled for serious news without resorting to distraction.
In a pre-recorded interview with Westpac Bank CEO Gail Kelly, Sales attempted to find a warmer side to the CEO, even soliciting a laugh about her being ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful women in the world between Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Would Kerry O’Brien have been so playful? Would Kelly have let him?
It ended with a lighter story on an increase in outback tourism with an old bloke who runs a camel train. A tick for covering regional Australia too.
Sales should prove a personable host with smarts.Her solid background in hosting Lateline will serve her well. I can’t wait to see her interview Julia Gillard to work out which one is which. Kidding.
Whilst some may have wanted 7:30 to deliver a knockout blow (just as ABC News 24 did when it broke the story about Rudd’s lazy security meetings on its launch), the real brief for the night was to not alienate a trusted audience.
Traditional ABC viewers will be pleased to see there was no obvious attempt to pitch to younger viewers, no flippant or brief items, no Hungry Beast style graphics (it had been floated by Sales and Uhlmann). All signs indicate it will remain more considered than 7pm Project, less sensationalist than TT and ACA, more investigative than The Drum, less preachy than Negus. Not a bad scoresheet for the first night.
And it didn’t even touch the theme tune.
7:30 airs 7:30pm weeknights on ABC1.