Around this time two years ago, I came up with the original Kuttsy's Pitch, and mentioned the need for local news on the Gold Coast for Seven of being utmost. Just weeks later, 7 unveiled their new Surfers Paradise facilities, including bringing up the top brass from Sydney, and making one of those famous "Seven commitments" to viewers, about launching a Seven News service for the Gold Coast... eventually.
Times change, and the GC population grew, but what people were expecting in 2010, the concept of Seven re-launching a local news service on the Gold Coast, after a decade's absence: never happened, much like the un-realized concept of 7 attacking Extra head to head at 5:30 in 2001. Now it has come to this, these are what I believe are the five factors needed for Seven to successfully change news watching habits on the Gold Coast.
1.A better budget: Seven need to seriously invest on the Gold Coast. And by investment, I mean, investing in a proper studio facility, close to the Surfers Paradise newsroom, along with any new news bulletin being made to the highest quality as possible. By quality, I mean having it produced equal to or better than capital city standards, as this is what the GC deserves.
2. Investing in journalism: What Seven also needs to do with a high budgeted news service, on the GC, is to invest in the reporters to make a concept like what I am suggesting work, and get viewers testing their long held loyalties to Nine. Seven won a Walkley for a Gold Coast story in 2009, and 7 Brisbane journalists have been nominated for numerous stories, for this year's Walkleys. This is a classic case of successful journalism investment. Seven needs to have a newsroom on the Gold Coast that is much larger than the competition, while promoting the fact: to get people to make the switch.
3. Investing in news-breaking: Seven needs to really consider, looking towards investing in more live link equipment on the Gold Coast, to not just provide the alternative, but assist if a major news story breaks in Brisbane, by effectively moving all GC resources to Brisbane temporarily, in similar fashion to what Nine did, earlier this year during the floods in Brisbane, where Nine decided on diverting their Gold Coast resources, to provide backup to both Brisbane-based and interstate journalists and provide a second link facility in Brisbane, in case, the Mt Coot-tha based link trucks were unable to get to key southside locations, and this strategy was also used for the recent visit to Brisbane by the Queen: with the GC link truck being used, to assist with Nine's critically acclaimed coverage (9's didn't go out nationally and had outside anchoring, along with a stellar lineup, compared to 7's, which was anchored primarily from a studio and went out nationally).
4. Investing in a eye in the sky: Another thing Seven needs to seriously invest in, is a area Nine hasn't even thought of. A second Queensland-based helicopter, for news is a must. Seven have built a brand around helicopters in news, and the Gold Coast needs a news helicopter based in the city, as time is the essence for a good news service, and it can't be delivered by having to wait 30-40mins for a chopper to come from Brisbane every time a big story breaks on the GC that requires the use of a helicopter. A second helicopter will also mean, that a GC-based helicopter can always be on standby to used in Brisbane, when the main Brisbane helicopter is being used outside SEQ, and could be used to fulfill a role the 7 Brisbane chopper occasionally fills: police chase work (a double benefit, as news would get footage: police keeps better track of GC crime)
5. The timeslot investment: Seven needs to really consider the timing of any new Gold Coast bulletin. If 7 decided to air a Gold Coast bulletin at 6pm, like Seven already does for regional QLD, it could seriously cannibalize the Brisbane weekday 6pm news ratings for both 7 and 9. If 7 aired any new GC bulletin at 5pm to get the jump on Nine, it could have people still watching Nine afterwards. Thus, the only way to go on weekdays is a 5:30 bulletin, head to head. But, there is one slot Seven could really own: weekends. Currently, there is no weekend local news on the Gold Coast, and a comprehensive weekend bulletin at 6pm for the region could rate very well: and force Nine and others into action to launch local weekend news in the short term, to stop their Brisbane-focused bulletins hemorrhaging GC viewers, towards a local weekend service.
Once you solve the problems on the Gold Coast, and 7 somehow has a success: the other half of this concept, is to restore the balance in Brisbane, with a major attempt at local content, that is designed to "fight back" against the twenty years of pain that successive Brisbane program directors, and news directors have tried to solve at Seven Brisbane, and try and own 5:30 every day of the week, instead of just Saturday/Sunday. And it needs to start with 7 conducting viewer research on what SEQ viewers really want at half-past five. I'm sure that any viewer research will likely lead to two conclusions.
1. Gold Coast viewers want competition in local news.
2. Brisbane viewers want a return to some "normality" at 5:30.
And everyone knows what "normality" at 5:30 in Brisbane is (and was for eighteen years): having a choice, between local show and game show, something unrivalled elsewhere. Seven has had two and a half years to make changes, since the Extra axing, and the reaction towards it. It's a matter, of whether 7 wants to see real ratings and habit changes in Brisbane, or whether 7 actually likes being on the short end of the stick at half past five, for the last twenty years: however, Gold Coast news should be the first step towards turning the tide, at half past five, especially, as the marathon, towards another lofty goal has now started. In less than 2400 days, the Gold Coast will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I just hope we aren't still asking the question about the need for more competition in local news and more local bulletins for the Gold Coast in November 2017.