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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