Opinion: Today Tonight could be turfed

Cheryl McGrath / January 21, 2014 03:30 PM

The bell could be tolling for Today Tonight with Helen Kapalos announcing her departure from the tabloid current affairs program after a year in the hosting chair, opting to take a correspondent role on Sunday Night.


                        Th -sv KAPALOS

                             PHOTO: Sydney Morning Herald

The news comes after a series of setbacks and rumours for Today Tonight.

“New year in media officially started when chairs start getting reshuffled on TV decks,” tweeted Melissa Hoyer, and the analogy of a sinking ship could be a pretty decent one.

The vultures have been circling around Today Tonight since at least September 2012, when Seven chief executive Tim Worner revealed at a presentation that some long-running programs would be axed and that news and current affairs were under review. 

Up to now, though, the rumours have always been shut down. Today Tonight might have an over-reliance on dodgy tradesmen, sick kids, celebrity interviews, road-tests of household products and exposes of fad diets to get its ratings, but it was consistently winning its slot. To axe it would basically just drive people to A Current Affair on rival Nine – basically, a “free kick” for the opposition.  

Even detractors of Today Tonight have realized it was unlikely to go. The show's format is cheaper to produce than news, meaning it’s a good investment for cost-conscious TV management. It's also a dream for advertisers, who can get promoted through “consumer interest” investigations and lifestyle stories. 

As time has gone on, though, it’s beginning to look less rosy for Today Tonight. The past year has seen Seven experimenting with hour-long news formats, instead of the traditional half-hour slot, which has meant Today Tonight’s timeslot has been moved and shortened.

Staff were also denied new contracts late last year after ratings for the show fell nine percent, and it was reported that there was “a lot of volatility” around Today Tonight’s declining popularity. And although she had built a solid reputation on rival Ten, Kapalos was known more for gaffes as TT host rather than her presentation skills.

So, yesterday’s news that Kapalos had cut the cord was welcome to many – mostly fans of Kapalos and non-fans of Today Tonight.

It looks as though questions about the show’s future – whether it will continue, whether the news will become a permanent one-hour format, and whether Derryn Hinch (?!) could be a new host – will continue for some time yet.

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