chapter  2
23 Pages

Embracing or resisting a rolling news logic? Understanding the changing character of television news bulletins

Over the last 20 to 30 years, fixed time television bulletins have operated in a far more competitive journalistic culture, where news is delivered instantly on dedicated news channels, rolling websites and most recently social media platforms. Fixed time bulletins, in this context, appear somewhat antiquated, a relic of the analogue age before the advent of always on, 24-hour news provision. Rather than having a menu of news served at a set time, most people can now instantly serve themselves whatever diet of news they want on broadcast, online or social media platforms. As an Economist (2011) special edition about the future of online news enthusiastically exclaimed, contemporary news is “a far more participatory and social experience. … Readers are being woven into the increasingly complex news ecosystem as sources, participants and distributors”. But for all the ostensible choice, freedom and immediacy of media in the information age – as the Introduction highlighted – fixed time bulletins continue to be the most popular format of news consumption in most advanced democracies, defying predictions that scheduled news will die off. And yet, whilst bulletins have remained resilient in the face of new competi-

tion, what is less clear is how they have adapted and responded to the new pace set by rolling news platforms. As far back as 1987, one US newspaper predicted “the first phase of an adjustment by the networks to a harsh new reality – a life-or-death struggle for survival in a changing news-delivery environment co-inhabited by newspapers, specialized magazines, radio and TV news bulletins, 24-hour cable and radio news services, satellite transmissions to local stations, and video-cassette recorders” (Unger 1987). More than a decade on, a UK television journalist – Alasdair Reid (1999) – commented that “Many of us grew up with television that dictated an ‘appointment to view’ approach to news – all of which looked pretty much the same. It is inevitable that the convenience and relevance we demand from all other consumer choices will have to be reflected in news coverage”. Although there has been much speculation and excitement about the new media age (see Curran et al. 2012), less attention has been paid to how ‘old’ formats of news have changed such as television bulletins.