Speaking to an audience that included the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, and ABC Chairman, Maurice Newman, the ABC’s Managing Director, Mark Scott, described Lateline as a textbook example of the broadcaster’s ability to marry innovation and quality.
“The ABC faced enormous challenges in getting Lateline to air. Its success revolutionised the media sector, demonstrating how technology, talent and a certain amount of courage can yield results,” Mr Scott said.
“By embracing then nascent satellite technology, the ABC was able to deliver its audiences a quality mix of news, current affairs and analysis on a truly international scale. The live international cross – a concept unimaginable a few years before – became Lateline’s staple.”
In its 20 years on air, Lateline has established a reputation as a national leader in news reporting and analysis, receiving widespread acclaim for innovative reporting, investigative journalism and in-depth interviewing.
On February 13, 1990, the first Lateline program presented by Kerry O’Brien went to air from Parliament House in Canberra. It was promoted as ‘a totally new type of current affairs program for Australian television’ and pioneered the use of multi-satellite interviews in which a single topic was discussed at length by several people in a studio-based debate.
Under the stewardship of founding executive producer Ian Carroll (currently the ABC’s Director of Innovation) the program promised ‘to provide a thoroughly professional and rigorous journalistic agenda’. The program ran for three nights a week, from Tuesdays to Thursdays at 10.35pm.
In 1991, the program did a three-part ‘Soviet Special’ series in the lead-up to the coup in Moscow. Lateline won its first Walkley Award for the series.
Since those early years, the program has broken many stories, interviewed a host of national and international leaders and won six more Walkley Awards for excellence in journalism, including two Walkleys in 2005 for investigative journalism and TV current affairs.
Tony Jones presents Lateline on Wednesdays and Thursdays, (due to his Q and A program commitments on ABC1) and Leigh Sales presents on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
View some of the video highlights from the last 20 years at abc.net.au/lateline/20 years