The Pluses And Minuses Of ABC News 24

After months of speculation and planning, the ABC's all-day news service, ABC News 24, officially begins this Thursday evening at 7.30pm. From a geek perspective, there's a lot to like about this service, and a couple of things that qualify as mild annoyances.

ABC News 24 has already had a dry run with Saturday morning's election announcement, but Thursday marks its official debut, complete with a simulcast on the main ABC1 channel. While my inner cynic suspects there'll be many more people watching MasterChef as it lurches towards the finals, it's still a noteworthy occasion. To mark that occasion, here's the pluses and minuses of the new approach.

Plus: It's available on multiple platforms.

Digital TV viewers and Austar subscribers can access ABC News 24 on channel 24. Foxtel subscribers will find it on channel 202.

More importantly for those of us who spend more time in front of our computers than our televisions, the service will also be streamed live from the ABC News site, through the ABC iPhone app and via iView. The latter is an especially appealing option if you use one of the ISPs that doesn't count iView towards your monthly download total (Adam, iiNet, Internode, Primus, Westnet, and universities using AARNet).

Minus: It reduces other HD options.

ABC News 24 has taken over the channel that was previously used for ABC HD, which rebroadcast ABC1 programs in HD (some native, some upconverted). While that gives the ABC a more diverse spread of programs, it's bad news for people who enjoyed watching full HD broadcasts when they were available, though it's worth noting that even when programs were originally produced in HD, the ABC didn't always broadcast them that way.

Plus: It offers 24-hour news to free-to-air viewers.

If you subscribe to pay TV, you've already got a range of 24-hour news options: Sky News for local content, and CNN, BBC World News, Bloomberg, CNBC and (debatably) Fox News for international coverage. However, that assumes that you're willing or able to pay for an additional service. ABC News 24, as you'd expect, is entirely free, and available to anyone with the right equipment. On which point . . .

Minus: You need an HD set-top box.

ABC News 24 is an HD-only service, so you'll need an HD-equipped set-top box to view it. That means anyone who purchased a cheapo SD-only option to get a basic range of digital channels is going to miss out. That seems a pity, especially for people in those categories who can't access the service online (think pensioners without broadband and people in regional areas without high-speed connections). Granted, there's no shortage of regularly-scheduled news broadcasts on standard TV, but the beauty of a 24-hour service is that you can watch big events as they break, or check out news headlines at a time that suits you, and some people will miss out on that.

Looking forward to ABC News 24? Already given up on TV as a news source? Share your views in the comments.

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Comments

    "so you’ll need an HD-equipped set-top box to view it"

    So do you need Foxtel HD to view it on Foxtel?

    It's annoying that there's no more HD ABC channel for normal content. There goes my HD Doctor Who. Couldn't they have just used another channel, like 24 or something, rather than 20?

      No. ABC's reason is that they ran out of spectrum. They don't have enough spectrum to run an additional SD channel, so they needed to replace an existing channel (ABC HD, ABC1, ABC2 or ABC3) to introduce ABC24. How about rallying the government to allocate more spectrum to ABC as they introduce their fourth digital channels, whereas commercial networks only currently have two digital channels.

    What was annoying is that without warning they started shutting down HD services last week- so people who had programmed ABCHD programming on their EPGs found that what they recorded was the ABCNews24 promos.

    Regarding the HD shutdown, there's a lot of people on forums, ranging from Whirlpool to TV Tonight, and even to the ABC television forums complaining about this move.

    The article doesn't make sense. The article says it's available to Standard Digital viewers. It reduces the HD options available. Then goes on to say it's HD only and you need HD set top box.

    If it's available to SD viewers then it's not HD, or atleast an SD channel is available.
    If it reduces the available HD options then once again it's either not HD or it's replacing other HD content, which the article does say.
    Then at the end you say it's HD only. So is it available as SD or not? is it really HD only?

      You're right -- that first use of the word 'standard' entirely confused the issue. Apologies. I've removed it, as the channel is indeed HD-only.

    Not only did we lose HD Dr Who, the geniuses decided to change channels right before the season finale - my PVR had a lovely hour of news promo reel recorded (iView to the rescue).

    Why news has to be HD, I do not understand; it's not as if the ABC doesn't have 2 spare SD channels mirroring ABC1 they could have used, allowing all to access them on free to air, and not sacrificing the HD channel. With Channel 10 also killing off HD to start One, HD Free to Air TV is suffering a death by a thousand cuts. Backwards to the Future in Aus again.

      Got to agree, love the idea hate the fact that it's on a HD channel.

      Why does the news need to be in the HD slot? Unless it's a deliberate attempt to reduce costs by not having to use HD for programs on ABC1 I just can't think of a reason for it.

      But at least One HD makes sense.
      I don't need HD to look at someones face talk about stuff.
      But HD sport is actually a lot better than SD. I notice the difference between SD and HD more when I'm watching sport.

        They are unable to use the those channels doing a simulcast of ABC1 because even though they are on different channel numbers eg 21, they are using the same allocated spectrum as channel 2. Its just digitally mapping the channel to that number again. Similarly with SBS, they are broadcasting SBS1 on channels labeled SBS3 & SBS4 however its only using the allocated spectrum of 1 channel. Its the exact same stream.

    Looking forward to this. It's the perfact complement to my favourite radio station - ABC News Radio. Wait - did I say that? Damn, I am becoming my Grandfather.

    Removal of HD channel and replaced with 24 news channel (aka News recycled on the hour every hour). What an annoying move. The fact that SD transmission channels even exist annoys the crap out of me.

    Yeah, the loss of HD is a big minus. At the very least I would say it would have been better to have made ABC3 (Kids) the HD channel so they could repeat key programs in HD after 9pm.

      Brilliant idea Tim.
      It seems that everyone else has better ideas for the 24hr News channel than ABC.

    I thought ABC HD was going to be killed off and the bandwidth shared across 4 SD channels (ABC1, ABC2, ABC Kids and ABC News). I'm sure you guys (or Gizmodo) even ran a story on the bandwidth breakdown when ABC News Channel was announced.

    Err, to anyone saying that there is no ABC1 HD is wrong.. The ABC has stated on ABC1 that the HD channel is still available over on channel 24. There are ads about it nightly around the 8.30/9pm time during programs.

      The HD channel has shifted to 24, but that will be the news channel as of Thursday.

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