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“It involved a whiteboard, a lot of different textas, and a lot of ingenuity”

Exclusive: Nine News director Hugh Nailon says it was all hands on deck to get bulletin to air after cyber attack.

EXCLUSIVE: Last night’s Nine News bulletin was pulled together with old school tools, including a white board, after Nine fell victim to a cyber attack.

A Nine News bulletin produced from Melbourne, was also packaged for Sydney with Alicia Loxley as presenter.

Nine News Melbourne Director Hugh Nailon last night told TV Tonight, “We faced an issue where none of the magnificent tools at our disposal were working. So we were forced to go back to how we did the news many decades ago. It involved a whiteboard, a lot of different textas, and a lot of ingenuity and a lot of incredible get up and go from our newsroom.

“None of our computers were working, but we had an idea of what the bulletin was going to look like. We had to put that in a publicly-visible area and a whiteboard is the old-school social media.

“Our line-up producer Brendan Stafford started writing the bulletin on Notes on his mobile phone. From there it went to a Word document and we eventually got to air.”

Nine’s technical headaches began in the early hours of Sunday morning which led to Weekend Today unable to broadcast. The Sunday Footy Show also fell victim to the disaster while NRL commentators headed to Newcastle.

Hugh Nailon credits the team for pulling together under extreme difficulties.

“Our Sydney newsroom sent some bodies down which was great. Lots of members from our newsroom -cameras, editors, reporters, producers put their hand up and volunteered to come in. The newsroom was absolutely buzzing – the definition of all hands on deck.

“Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth were all able to find a similar work-around that we managed to find, which basically involved using our old equipment to put the bulletin to air manually without using the automated system that we’ve got in place.

“It was like winding back the clock, literally. We had to pull out the old stopwatch to help us time stories out. Modern tools that we take for granted weren’t at our disposal so it was a bit of a flashback.”

A 5pm bulletin was unable to proceed due to the extra workload, but the end result was almost seamless, carefully aimed at both Melbourne and Sydney audiences.

“As (3AW’s) Ross Stevenson says they’re not two different cities, they’re two different countries. So we had to create a bulletin that appealed audiences in both cities, but I think our viewers would feel as though they were informed clearly on what was happening to them in their patch. I think we struck the right balance.”

Yesterday wasn’t the first time a TV network has fallen victim to such an attack, with 10 also hit in 2019 just before the Melbourne Cup Carnival. Last year ratings data provider Nielsen was also hacked causing some 10 days of data to be delayed.

Nine staff have worked overnight to ready the Today and Today Extra shows from Sydney, with Nine confident it can broadcast all bulletins today. While IT Teams work to rectify the bigger problem, it isn’t clear how long it may drag on for. A ransom has not been received, nor any party identifying itself as responsible.

Hugh Nailon continued, “A good newsroom thrives on adversity. Today demonstrated that Nine newsroom in Melbourne was able to take up the challenge and produce a bulletin for Sydney and Melbourne under difficult circumstances as we’ve ever had. They are the best in the business -today demonstrated that.

Grateful for a trusty white board in his hour of need he added, “There might be a rush on at Officeworks tomorrow morning.”

Photo: Twitter

4 Responses

  1. I am starting to think this is a vendor issue… SkyNews in the UK have had studio automation for nearly 10 years (with upgrades) and have never had any problems… The question must always be – what is your backup for your backup?

  2. Nine were recently bragging about being the 1st Aussie TV Network to convert to IP for all networking and distribution. The engine conversion was fine but then someone let the air out of the tyres. In a crisis experience triumphs over technology.

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