abc_2001 ABC is set to launch Australia’s first 24-hour free-to-air news channel this year.

The new channel, announced today by ABC managing director Mark Scott, will broadcast on the digital platform and will serve as a competitor to Australia’s only other continuous news channel, Sky News Australia, which is available on pay-TV.

The new channel follows the recent launch of ABC’s children’s channel, ABC3.

New studio and newsroom facilities are currently being built at ABC’s Ultimo headquarters in Sydney.  The news channel will provide more opportunities to view ABC’s existing news and current affairs programming and will also include new programming and features within its continuous news format – tapping into the resources of ABC’s entire news operation, including regional and international resources, and will support a multiple platform environment in co-ordination with ABC News Online, ABC News Radio and ABC Mobile

Programming from the channel will also be made available to other ABC outlets, including its international satellite service, Australia Network, which has coverage into 44 countries.

Mr Scott said that the new channel will launch with no additional funding from the Government and will broadcast on its existing high-definition signal.

The announcement of the new channel has already sparked a defensive attack by Sky News chief Angelos Frangopoulos, claiming that the new channel will end up absorbing funding from other parts of the national operation, would affect the quality of ABC’s existing operations and violates the ABC’s charter.  Mr Frangopoulos also slammed the new operation as being a “needless duplication of services already available to Australians”, as Sky News already provides fourteen, 24-hour channels, including Sky News Business, multiview and local news channels, as well as Australia’s only parliamentary and public affairs channel, A-PAC.

Sky News is a joint venture operation between PBL Media (which owns the Nine Network and regional NBN Television), Seven Media Group and Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting.

The announcement of the new channel comes as ABC and Sky News are also reported to be planning to battle for the right to operate Australia Network on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, after the existing contract expires later this year.

According to ABC’s most recent annual report, ABC’s digital signal, which currently carries ABC1, ABC2, ABC3, ABCHD and radio stations Dig and DigJAZZ, is currently available to 97.7 per cent of the Australian population, through 324 transmitter sites.

Further details on the new ABC channel, such as programming schedules and launch dates, have yet to be announced.

Source: ABC News, ABC News, ABC News, The Australian, ABC Annual Report

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