SKY NEWS AUSTRALIA
Australia’s first locally produced television news channel, Sky News Australia features news on the hour, headlines every 15 minutes, regular half-hour programs including Sportsline and Agenda, as well as panel and discussion shows including The Contrarians and The Nation.
Sky News began broadcasting on pay television in 1996. Its parent company is a joint venture between Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) and the two companies that own the largest commercial free-to-air television networks in Australia—Kerry Stokes’ Seven West Media and the Nine Entertainment Co.
Sky News rose from early obscurity to build its reputation through coverage of live events, including the Beaconsfield mine collapse in 2006 and a series of bushfires in 2006–07. It provided live coverage of the 2004 federal election as a dedicated channel, but it was during the 2007 election that Sky scored a series of triumphs including hosting the only leaders’ debate and being the first channel to accurately predict the election result.
Sky News’s political editor David Speers was the first to announce the result of a 2006 Labor Party leadership spill by taking a text message live on air from a member of the Labor caucus. In 2007, he broke the story of thwarted moves by key Cabinet ministers to dump Prime Minister John Howard during the APEC summit; he provided dramatic coverage of Julia Gillard’s deposing of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2010; and his interviews with Rudd precipitated Rudd’s failed 2012 Labor leadership challenge. Speers also hosted federal election debates in 2010 and 2013.
As a proportion of Australians watching television, Sky News’ audience share is low— sometimes only 0.5 per cent. Viewers tend to be heavy news consumers who check headlines regularly.
Compared with other networks, Sky News operates on a shoestring budget. It has relatively few staff, and much of their work involves re-packaging stories from external sources. Sky News’s reporters are also expected to write their own scripts and edit their own video.
In 2004, Sky News expanded from a single news channel to the eight-channel Sky News Active. The Sky News Business Channel was launched in 2008, followed by A-PAC (Australia’s Public Affairs Channel, an Australian version of American public affairs network C-SPAN) in 2009. In late 2012, Sky News took over the Weather Channel, rebranding it as Sky News Weather. Sky News is also available as a mobile service and SMS/MMS.
Sky News’s presence has influenced Australian journalism, encouraging a faster, longer news cycle and a digital newsroom, content-packaging approach. Other outlets now also privilege immediacy, ‘breaking news’, live coverage and the visual. In 2010, the ABC launched the freeto-air ABC News 24, ending Sky News’s 14-year monopoly on local 24-hour television news.
REFs: S. Young, ‘Audiences and the Impact of 24-hour News in Australia and Beyond’, in J. Lewis and S. Cushion (eds), The Rise of 24-Hour News Television (2010) and ‘Sky News Australia: The Impact of Local 24-hour News on Political Reporting in Australia’, Journalism Studies 10(3) (2009).