Election 2013 media panel

Another election contest - the pitch for viewers

Politics aside, there are other contests going on during this election, including those for circulation and ratings.

On the night when Kevin Rudd wrested the Labor leadership back from Julia Gillard Nine won the TV ratings for its coverage. It will probably do the same for the period of the campaign.

But the different techniques being used by TV news to package the election for viewers make an interesting footnote to the poll itself.

For content and delivery, the first night belonged to the ABC. It extended its bulletin and went national for 15 minutes (twice the length of the coverage at Nine) before switching back to the states.

That allowed it to include a live interview with Tony Abbott (the PM having apparently declined a similar offer). The opposition leader took the chance to pitch for the women’s vote with his promise on paid parental leave.

Then News and 7.30 correspondents, Mark Simkin and Chris Uhlmann, chatted about how they saw the campaign playing out. News bulletins are generally too tightly produced to allow this type of device.

There was also time for two reports from journalists in the studio, explaining details of the issues, party policies and the importance of key seats accompanied by background graphics of facts and figures. This is a relatively new style of delivery - low on the pictorial content generally seen as essential for television news, but good at conveying information.

Worst job of the night had earlier fallen to Josh Murphy at Channel 10 Sydney, dispatched to Rooty Hill for a live-cross from the electorally-vital western suburbs long before there was anything meaningful to report.

Murphy told the 5pm news audience that people there were “going about their general business” as the news filtered through; that he’d had the chance to speak to “a couple of voters” and that Kevin Rudd was “coming out as the more popular leader”, though the sample size would tend to make that less exciting for Labor than it might hope.

With so much at stake in western Sydney Murphy predicted voters there could expect a “lot of fly in and fly out visits”. And not just by politicians.