Legendary news broadcaster Mal Walden, who departed Network 10 in 2013, has seen it all.
During his 50 years in the media, 40 were spent reading news, and 26 of them at 10. He is more than familiar with the various hiring and firings that are endemic to the ‘third broadcaster.’ More than any other network 10 has built and burnt down its news departments only to rebuild them again.
Yesterday 10 announced plans to cut news staff in Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide, ‘centralising’ them with bulletins from Sydney and Melbourne. It’s a familiar strategy.
From 2000 the Adelaide bulletin was read from Melbourne, largely by George Donikian, until it returned to Adelaide in 2011. Nine years later, after much talk of commitment to local news, it is headed back to Melbourne.
Television is cyclical after all…
“You’ve got to remember when they say, ‘We’re committed to local news’, that’s one management that says that. 12 months later, there’s another management there. So the management structure changes almost as much as the product itself,” Walden tells TV Tonight.
“If you don’t listen to history, you’re bound to repeat it.”
“There’s an old saying, ‘If you don’t listen to history, you’re bound to repeat it.’ History repeats itself so often at Channel 10.
“It’s a very sad situation, particularly at the moment when so many people are losing their jobs. These people are the ones that have been providing all the information about the crisis we’re going through in these unprecedented times. When you dedicate your whole day to doing that sort of thing then you find yourself in the same situation, it’s pretty tough. Very, very sad.”
During his years at 10, Walden presented various incarnations of TEN Eyewitness News, at different times, durations and titles.
“Initially we were a half hour news bulletin, when we first started at five o’clock. Then we went to an hour with First at Five, then we went to 90 minutes during the ‘news revolutionary’ period, then we went back to an hour… it’s ever changing. That’s about the only thing you can say about the industry.
“These situations are never lasting. But a new management structure will come in and times will change. Who knows, it might even go back to being local again? You just have to ride out that storm.
“Duck your head, and wait for the shooting to finish”
“I always used to say when change was imminent, adopt the bunker system: duck your head, and wait for the shooting to finish before you stick it up again. And that way I kind of survived most of the shooting and the most of the wars.”
Amongst the sudden casualties yesterday are news presenter Tim Bailey (30 years at 10), Melbourne weather presenter Mike Larkan (24 years), Perth weather presenter Michael Schultz (22 years), Brisbane newsreader Georgina Lewis (21 years), Adelaide newsreader Rebecca Morse (14 years) and weather presenter Kate Freebairn (12 years), Brissy weather presenter Josh Holt (7 years), Adelaide sports anchor Will Goodings (20 months) and Perth newsreader Monika Kos (8 months).
Also leaving are Natarsha Belling (22 years) and Kerri-Anne Kennerley (2 years in current cycle) from Studio 10 while Joe Hildebrand is in discussion with the network.
But ‘centralising’ the news whilst saving costs on presenters, as well as some crew, can also lead to a loss of faith by the audience. There are also timezone differences, which could impact on live presentation, and sporting preferences between AFL and NRL.
“They’ll revert back to the the policies and the system that they adopted last time they read the news out of Melbourne,” says Walden. “Different newsreader – but the principal worked for a period of time before it reverted back to local news again.
“The problem is it causes untold hardship in the meantime, for those that have been forced to look for work elsewhere.
“There’s always life after television.”
“All I can say is, look, it’s tough. You have to bite the bullet. There’s always life after television. I can speak from experience on that one.”
During the pandemic lockdown Walden has written 5 short books distributed by Simon and Schuster on Australia’s major disasters, iconic legends, myths and mysteries and the latest, Mal Walden’s Crazy Aussie Crims to be released on September 2nd.