News broadcasting is the medium of broadcasting of various news events and other information via television, radio or internet in the field of broadcast journalism. The content is usually either produced locally in a radio studio or television studio newsroom, or by a broadcast network. It may also include additional material such as sports coverage, weather forecasts, traffic reports, commentary and other material that the broadcaster feels is relevant to their audience.
Television news refers to disseminating current events via the medium of television. A “news bulletin” or a “newscast” are television programs lasting from seconds to hours that provide updates on world, national, regional or local news events.
There are numerous providers of broadcast news content such as BBC News, NBC, CNN, Fox News, RT and Al Jazeera, as well as numerous programs that regularly provide this content such as NBC Nightly News. In addition to general news outlets, there are specialized news outlets, for example about sports (ESPNews, Fox Sports News, Eurosport News) and finances (CNBC, Bloomberg Television, Fox Business Network).
Television news is very image-based, showing video footage of many of the events that are reported; still photography is also used in reporting news stories, although not as much in recent years as in the early days of broadcast television. Television channels may provide news bulletins as part of a regularly scheduled news program. Less often, television shows may be interrupted or replaced by breaking news reports (“news flashes”) to provide news updates on events of great importance.
Radio news is similar to television news, but is transmitted through the medium of the radio instead. It is based on the audio aspect rather than the visual aspect. Sound bites are captured through various reporters (generally through audio capture devices such as tape recorders) and played back through the radio. News updates occur more often on radio than on television – usually about once or twice an hour.
Structure, content and style
Newscasts, also known as bulletins or news program(me)s, differ in content, tone and presentation style depending on the format of the channel/station on which they appear, and their timeslot. In most parts of the world, national television networks will have bulletins featuring national and international news. The top-rated shows will often air in the evening during “prime time“, but there are also often morning newscasts of two to three hours in length. Rolling news channels broadcast news content 24 hours a day. The advent of the internet has allowed the regular 24-hour-a-day presentation of many video and audio news reports, which are updated when additional information becomes available; many television broadcasters provide content originally provided on-air as well as exclusive and/or supplementary news content on their websites. Local news may be presented by standalone local television stations, stations affiliated with national networks or by local studios which “opt-out” of national network programming at specified points. Different news programming may be aimed at different audiences, depending on age, socio-economic group or those from particular sections of society. “Magazine-style” television shows (or newsmagazines) may mix news coverage with topical lifestyle issues, debates or entertainment content. Public affairs programs provide analysis of and interviews about political, social and economic issues.
News programs feature one or two (sometimes, three) anchors (or presenters, the terminology varies depending on the country) segueing into news stories filed by a reporter (or correspondent) by describing the story to be shown; however, some stories within the broadcast are read by the presenter themselves; in the former case, the anchor “tosses” to the reporter to introduce the featured story; likewise, the reporter “tosses” back to the anchor once the taped report has concluded and the reporter provides additional information. Often in situations necessitating long-form reporting on a story (usually during breaking news situations), the reporter is interviewed by the anchor, known as a ‘two-way’, or a guest involved in or offering analysis on the story is interviewed by a reporter or anchor. There may also be breaking news stories which will present live rolling coverage.
Television news organizations employ several anchors and reporters to provide reports (as many as ten anchors, and up to 20 reporters for local news operations or up to 30 for national news organizations). They may also employ specialty reporters that focus on reporting certain types of news content (such as traffic or entertainment), meteorologists or weather anchors (the latter term often refers to weather presenters that do not have degrees in meteorology earned at an educational institution) who provide weather forecasts – more common in local news and on network morning programs – and sports presenters that report on ongoing, upcoming and/or concluded sporting events.
Packages will usually be filmed at a relevant location and edited in an editing suite in a newsroom or a remote contribution edit suite in a location some distance from the newsroom. They may also be edited in mobile editing trucks, or satellite trucks (such as electronic news gathering vehicles), and transmitted back to the newsroom. Live coverage will be broadcast from a relevant location and sent back to the newsroom via fixed cable links, microwave radio, production truck, satellite truck or via online streaming. Roles associated with television news include a technical director, floor director audio technician and a television crew of operators running character graphics (CG), teleprompters and professional video cameras. Most news shows are broadcast live.
Radio news broadcasts can range from as little as a minute to as much as the station’s entire schedule, such as the case of all-news radio, or talk radio. Stations dedicated to news or talk content will often feature newscasts, or bulletins, usually at the top of the hour, usually between three and eight minutes in length. They can be a mix of local, national and international news, as well as sport, entertainment, weather and traffic reports, or they may be incorporated into separate bulletins. There may also be shorter bulletins at the bottom of the hour, or three at 15-minute intervals, or two at 20-minute intervals. All-news radio stations exist in some countries (most commonly in North America), primarily located in major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Chicago and Toronto, which often broadcast local, national and international news and feature stories on a set time schedule (sometimes known as a “wheel” format, which schedules the presentation of certain segments focused on a specific type of news content at a specific point each hour).
News broadcasting by country
Unlike in United States, most Canadian television stations have license requirements (enforced by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) to offer locally produced newscasts (or any local programming, for that matter) in some form. Educational television stations are exempt from these requirements as are multicultural television stations, however some stations licensed as multicultural outlets do produce local newscasts in varied languages (such as the Omni Television station group). Canadian television stations normally broadcast newscasts between two and four times a day: usually at noon; 5:00, 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. in the evening, and 11:00 p.m. at night (there are some variations to this: stations affiliated with CTV usually air their late evening newscasts at 11:30 p.m., due to the scheduling of the network’s national evening news program CTV National News at 11:00 p.m. in all time zones; most CBC Television-owned stations formerly carried a 10-minute newscast at 10:55 p.m., following The National, these were expanded to a half-hour and moved to 11:00 p.m. during the fall of 2012).
Some stations carry morning newscasts (usually starting at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., and ending at 9:00 a.m.). Unlike in the United States, primetime newscasts in the 10:00 p.m. timeslot are relatively uncommon (three Global owned-and-operated stations in Manitoba and Saskatchewan – CKND-DT, CFSK-DT and CFRE-DT – and Victoria, British Columbia independent station CHEK-DT are the only television stations in the country carrying a primetime newscast); conversely, pre-5:00 a.m. local newscasts are also uncommon in Canada, Hamilton, Ontario independent station CHCH-DT, whose weekdaily programming consists largely of local news, is currently the only station in the country that starts its weekday morning newscasts before 5:30 a.m. (the station’s morning news block begins at 4:00 a.m. on weekdays).
Like with U.S. television, many stations use varied titles for their newscasts; this is particularly true with owned-and-operated stations of Global and City (Global’s stations use titles based on daypart such as News Hour for the noon and early evening newscasts and News Final for 11:00 p.m. newscasts, while all six City-owned broadcast stations produce morning news/talk programs under the umbrella title Breakfast Television and its flagship station CITY-DT/Toronto‘s evening newscasts are titled CityNews). Overall umbrella titles for news programming use the titling schemes “(Network or system name) News” for network-owned stations or “(Callsign) News” for affiliates not directly owned by a network or television system (although the latter title scheme was used on some network-owned stations prior to the early 2000s).
CBC Television, Global and CTV each produce national evening newscasts (The National, Global National and CTV National News, respectively), which unlike the American network newscasts do not compete with one another in a common timeslot; while Global National airs at the same early evening time slot as the American evening network newscasts, The National‘s 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time slot competes against primetime entertainment programming on the private broadcast networks, while CTV National News airs against locally produced 11:00 p.m. newscasts on other stations. The National, which has aired on CBC Television since 1954, is the longest-running national network newscast in Canada. All three networks also produce weekly newsmagazines: CBC’s The Fifth Estate (aired since 1975), Global’s 16×9 (aired since 2008) and CTV’s W5 (aired since 1966 and currently the longest-running network newsmagazine in Canada).
CTV’s Canada AM, which has aired since 1975, is the sole national morning news program on broadcast television in Canada, although it has since been relegated to semi-national status as most CTV owned-and-operated stations west of the Ontario-Manitoba border dropped the program during the summer and fall of 2011 in favor of locally produced morning newscasts. The Sunday morning talk show is relatively uncommon on Canadian television; for many years, the closest program baring similarities to the format was CTV’s news and interview series Question Period; Global would eventually debut the political affairs show The West Block in November 2011, which closely follows the format.
Canada is host to several 24-hour cable news channels, consisting of domestically-operated cable channels and news channels operated outside of Canada or North America. Domestic national news channels include CTV News Channel and Sun News Network, which offer general news programming; Business News Network, which carries business news; and The Weather Network, which offers national and local forecasts. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation operates two national news networks: the English-language CBC News Network and the French-language Réseau de l’information (RDI). Other Canadian specialty news channels broadcasting in French include general news networks Argent and Le Canal Nouvelles, and MétéoMédia, a French-language sister to The Weather Network.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission authorizes carriage of some cable channels from foreign countries on domestic cable and satellite operators provided that they are linked to a Canadian network. Amongst news channels, all four major U.S. cable news networks: CNN, HLN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel are available on most providers, along with channels from outside North America such as Al Jazeera English from Qatar, BBC World News from the United Kingdom, Deutsche Welle from Germany and RT from Russia.
Regionally-based news channels are fairly uncommon in Canada in comparison to the United States. Two 24-hour regional news channels currently exist in the country: the Toronto-centered CP24 and the Vancouver-focused Global News: BC 1 (although CHCH-DT, a general entertainment station with a rolling daytime news block on weekdays (currently from 4:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.) that has existed since August 2009 and hour-long local newscasts nightly at 6:00 and 11:00 p.m., serves as a de facto regional news channel for Southern Ontario‘s Golden Horseshoe region); CityNews Channel formerly operated as a competitor to CP24, although that channel shut down after a year-and-a-half of operation in May 2013.
Local TV stations in the United States normally broadcast local news three to four times a day on average: commonly airing at 4:30, 5:00, 5:30 and/or 6:00 a.m.; noon; 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. in the early evening; and 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. at night. Some stations carry morning newscasts at 4:00, 7:00, 8:00 or 9:00 a.m., midday newscasts at 11:00 or 11:30 a.m., late afternoon newscasts at 4:00 or 4:30 p.m., or early evening newscasts at 5:30 or 6:30 p.m. Many Fox affiliates, affiliates of minor networks (such as The CW and MyNetworkTV) and independent stations air newscasts in the final hour of primetime (i.e., 10:00 p.m. in the Eastern and Pacific time zones or 9:00 p.m. in the Mountain and Central time zones in the U.S.). Stations that produce local newscasts typically broadcast as little as one to as much over twelve hours of local news on weekdays and as little as one hour to as much as seven hours on weekends; news programming on weekends are typically limited to morning and evening newscasts as the variable scheduling of network sports programming (if a station is affiliated with a network with a sports division) usually prevents most stations from carrying midday newscasts (however a few stations located in the Eastern and Pacific time zones do produce weekend midday newscasts).
From the 1940s to 1960s, broadcast television stations typically provided local news programs only one to two times each evening for 15 minutes (the normal length for many locally produced programs at the time); usually these programs aired as supplements to network-supplied evening news programs and/or leadouts for primetime programming. Reports featured on local and national television newscasts during this time were generally provided via film or still photography; eventually, videotape began to be used to provide live coverage of news events. The 1950s also saw the first use of airborne newsgathering; most notably, in 1958, Los Angeles television station KTLA began operating the “Telecopter“, a helicopter equipped for newsgathering use that was the most advanced airborne television broadcast device of its time.
The modern-day coverage of major breaking news events came to fruition following the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963; the news of Kennedy’s death was first announced by Eddie Barker, the news director at KRLD-TV (now KDFW) in Dallas, who passed along word from an official at Parkland Hospital; Barker’s scoop appeared live simultaneously on CBS and ABC as a result of a local press pool arrangement. Many local and national news organizations such as Dallas station WFAA-TV and CBS News provided coverage of the events and aftermath for five days. The November 24, 1963 assassination of Kennedy’s accused killer Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby was fed to NBC by a remote unit on loan to its Dallas affiliate WBAP-TV (now KXAS-TV) from competitor KTVT, and was the first murder to have been witnessed live on U.S. network television. The coverage provided by the local stations eventually led to further investments and technological developments to provide real-time news; newsgathering vehicles equipped with satellites began to be used on the local and national levels beginning in the 1970s. During the 1960s and 1970s, many stations began to provide additional news programming, beginning with midday news programs; in the late 1970s, the first local morning news programs debuted.
Additional changes in local news content came during the 1980s and 1990s; in January 1989, WSVN in Miami became the first to adopt a news-intensive programming format; rather than fill its schedule with syndicated content as other Fox stations did at the time it joined that network, Ed Ansin (owner of WSVN parent Sunbeam Television) chose instead to heavily invest in the station’s news department, and replace national newscasts and late-prime time network programs vacated as a result of losing its NBC affiliation (the byproduct of an affiliation switch caused by CBS and WSVN’s former network partner NBC buying other stations in the market) with additional newscasts. This model was eventually replicated by many other stations affiliated with the post-1986 television networks as well as some news-producing independent stations (beginning with Fox’s 1994 deals with New World Communications and SF Broadcasting that saw several major network stations change their affiliations), and also resulted in even NBC, CBS and ABC affiliates adopting similar scheduling formats (tweaked to account for the larger amount of network programming that those networks carry). In 1990, WEWS-TV in Cleveland conceived a concept known as the “24-Hour News Source” (which has its origins in a news format used by short-lived Boston independent station WXPO-TV when it signed on in 1969), in which supplementary 30-second long news updates were produced at or near the top of each hour outside of regular long-form newscasts during local commercial break inserts shown within network and syndicated programming. The format spread to other U.S. television stations (most notably, WISH-TV in Indianapolis, one of the few remaining users of the concept), most of which eventually disposed of the hourly update format by the early 2000s.
Since the early 1990s, independent stations and stations affiliated with a non-Big Three network have entered into “news share agreements,” in which news production is outsourced to a major network station (usually an affiliate of ABC, NBC or CBS), often to avoid shouldering the cost of starting a news department from scratch or because of a lack of studio space. These commonly involve Fox, CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates (and previously affiliate stations of the now-defunct predecessors of the latter two networks, The WB and UPN) and in some cases, independent stations; however such agreements exist in certain markets between two co-owned/co-managed Big Three affiliates. News share agreements are most common with stations co-owned with a larger network affiliate or whose operations are jointly managed through a shared service or local marketing agreement. In cases where a station with an existing news department enters into a news share agreement, it will result either the two departments merging or the outright conversion of newscast production from in-house to outsourced production. Minor network affiliates involved in news share agreements will often carry far fewer hours of local newscasts than would be conceivable with an in-house news department to avoid competition with the outsourcing partner’s own newscasts, as a result, minor network affiliates involved in these NSAs often will carry a morning newscast from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. (in competition with the national network newscasts instead of airing competing with the Big Three affiliates’ newscasts) and/or a primetime newscast at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific or 9:00 p.m. Central and Mountain Time, with limited to no newscasts in other traditional news time periods (midday, late afternoon or early evening).
Because of the increased presence of duopolies and outsourcing agreements since the early 2000s, the number of minor network affiliates and independent stations that produce their own newscasts has markedly decreased compared to when duopolies were barred under Federal Communications Commission rules prior to 2000 (as of 2013, there are at least 15 minor network affiliates or independent stations that produce their own local newscasts, most are located within the 20 largest U.S. media markets). Duopolies and outsourcing agreements have also affected Fox stations in a similar manner; although Fox is considered to be a major network on the same level as NBC, ABC and CBS and has urged its affiliates since the early 1990s to broadcast local news, about half of its stations broadcast local news programming through news share agreements with many of the remainder operating their own news departments. Several stations affiliated with Spanish-language networks (such as Univision and Telemundo) also broadcast their own newscasts, these stations often produce a substantially lower weekly newscast output compared to its English-language counterparts (usually limited to half-hour broadcasts in the evening, and often airing only on weeknights).
Unlike international broadcast stations which tend to brand under uniform newscast titles based solely on network affiliation, U.S. television stations tend to use varying umbrella titles for their newscasts; some title their newscasts utilizing the station’s on-air branding (such as combining the network affiliation and channel number with the word “News”), others use franchised brand names (like Eyewitness News, Action News and NewsChannel) for their news programming. Conversely, the naming conventions for a station’s newscast are sometimes used as a universal on-air branding for the station itself, and may be used for general promotional purposes, even used in promoting syndicated and network programming (such as KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which uses the uniform news and general branding NewsChannel 4). Many stations title their newscasts with catchy names like Daybreak, Good Morning (city or region name), First at Four, Live at Five, Eleven @ 11:00 or Nightcast. These names are intended to set one station apart from the rest, especially for viewers who are chosen for audience measurement surveys. If the respondent was unable to provide a channel number or call letters, the newscast title is often enough for the appropriate station to receive Nielsen ratings credit.
Network news programming
The Big Three broadcast television networks produce morning and evening national newscasts (America This Morning, Good Morning America and ABC World News are broadcast by ABC, CBS broadcasts the CBS Morning News, CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News, and NBC produces Early Today, Today and NBC Nightly News) as well as weekly newsmagazine series (NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s CBS News Sunday Morning, 48 Hours and 60 Minutes). Network morning newscasts usually air at 7:00 a.m. (English-language network morning shows air live in the Eastern Time Zone and tape delayed for the remaining time zones, while the Spanish-language morning shows air live in the Eastern, Central and Mountain time zones and are tape delayed in the Pacific Time Zone); network evening newscasts usually are broadcast live at 6:30 p.m. on the East Coast and broadcast live in both the Eastern and Central Time Zones, with a secondary live broadcast (otherwise known as a ‘Western Edition”) at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Today was the first morning news program to be broadcast on American television and in the world, when it debuted on January 14, 1952; the earliest national evening news program was The Walter Compton News, a short-lived 15-minute newscast that aired on the DuMont Television Network from 1947 to 1948.
All four major English networks and the two largest Spanish networks also carry political talk programs on Sunday mornings (NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week, CBS’ Face the Nation, Fox’s sole news program Fox News Sunday, Univision’s Al Punto and Telemundo’s Enfoque); of these programs, Meet the Press holds the distinction of being the longest-running American television program as it has aired since November 6, 1947. The U.S. is one of the few countries in which broadcast networks provide overnight or early morning national news programs, in addition to those airing in the morning and early evening. CBS and ABC are currently the only networks that produce overnight news programs on weeknights in the form of Up to the Minute and World News Now, respectively; NBC previously produced overnight newscasts at different times, both of which have since been cancelled: NBC News Overnight from 1982 to 1983, and NBC Nightside from 1992 to 1999 (NBC currently does not offer a late night newscast, although the network currently airs rebroadcasts of the fourth hour of Today, and sister network CNBC‘s Mad Money on weeknights).
Spanish-language news programs are provided by Univision, which produces early and late evening editions of its flagship evening news program Noticiero Univision seven nights a week (and was the only nightly newscast on the major Spanish networks until Telemundo resumed its weekend newscasts in October 2014), along with weekday afternoon newsmagazine Primer Impacto and weekday morning program Despierta America); Telemundo, which has a daily flagship evening newscast Noticiero Telemundo, along with weekday morning program Un Nuevo Día and weekday afternoon newsmagazine Al Rojo Vivo; MundoFox, which produces the weekday-only flagship newscast Noticias MundoFox, along with a weekday afternoon newsmagazine MundoFox ¡Y Ya!; Estrella TV, which produces the weekday-only flagship news program Noticiero Estrella TV and the primetime newscast Cierre de Edición; and Azteca América, which produces morning, early and late evening newscasts on weekdays under the umbrella title Hechos. In the cases of Univision and Telemundo, both of their evening news programs compete with national evening news programs on their English-language competitors.
Fox, The CW and MyNetworkTV do not produce national morning and evening news programs (although Fox made a brief attempt at a morning program from 1996 to 1997 with Fox After Breakfast; many CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates and independent stations air the syndicated news program The Daily Buzz, while some Tribune Broadcasting-owned CW and MyNetworkTV stations air a similar program called EyeOpener).
24-hour news channels are devoted to current events around the clock. They are often referred to as cable news channels. The originator of this format from which the name derives is CNN (which following its 1980 launch, spun off other national and international networks using the brand such as CNN International, CNN en Español and CNN-IBN), originally standing for Cable News Network in reference to the then-new phenomenon of cable television. As satellite and other forms of television have evolved, the term “cable news” has become something of an anachronism, but is still in common use; many other television channels have since been established, such as BBC World News, BBC News Channel, Sky News, Al Jazeera, Newsmax TV, ABC News 24, France 24, STAR News, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. Some news channels specialize even further, such as ESPNews (sports news; sister channel to ESPN); The Weather Channel (weather, although its status as a specialty news channel has become ambiguous due to its recent incorporation of non-news entertainment programming); CNBC, Bloomberg Television and Fox Business Network (financial news).
Conversely, several cable news channels exist that carry news reports specifically geared toward a particular metropolitan area, state or region such as New York City‘s NY1 (which focuses on the entire New York metropolitan area) and News 12 Networks (which serves portions of the area outside of Manhattan), Orlando‘s News 13 (which is also carried in areas surrounding Greater Orlando), Tampa, Florida‘s Bay News 9 and Washington, D.C.‘s NewsChannel 8. These channels are usually owned by a local cable operator and are distributed solely through cable television and IPTV system operators. Some broadcast television stations also operate cable channels (some of which are repeated through digital multicasting) that air the station’s local newscasts in the form of live simulcasts from the television station, with rebroadcasts of the newscasts airing in time periods between the live broadcasts.
A term which has entered common parlance to differentiate cable news from traditional news broadcasts is network news, in reference to the traditional television networks on which such broadcasts air. A classic example is the cable news channel MSNBC, which overlaps with (and, in the case of very significant breaking news events, pre-empts) its network counterpart NBC News; in some cases, viewers may have trouble differentiating between the cable channel and either a counterpart network news organization or a local news operation, such as is the case with Fox News Channel and the Fox network’s owned-and-operated stations and affiliates (most of which use the Fox (channel #) News brand for their newscasts), due to the network’s controversially perceived conservative-leaning political content that differs from the Fox broadcast stations’ independent and generally nonpartisan reporting. Most U.S. cable news networks do not air news programming 24 hours a day, often filling late afternoon, primetime and late night hours with news-based talk programs, documentaries and other specialty programming.
More often, AM radio stations will air a 6½-minute newscast at the top of the hour, which can be either a local report, a national report from a radio network such as CBS Radio, CNN Radio, NPR, Fox News Radio or ABC News Radio, or a mix of both local and national content, including weather and traffic reports. Some stations also air a two-minute report at the bottom of the hour.
FM stations, unless they feature a talk radio format, usually only air an abbreviated weather forecast. Some also air minute-long news capsules featuring a quick review of events, and usually only in drive time periods or in critical emergencies, since FM stations usually focus more on playing music. Traffic reports also air on FM stations, depending on the market.
In some countries, radio news content may be syndicated by a website or company to many stations in a particular region or even the entire country. A notable example is Israel, where there are groups of radio stations that broadcast the same hourly news capsule by an Israeli news website and television station. There are currently two groups of local Israeli stations: one broadcasts news from YNET, the other broadcasts them from Channel 10. Israeli Army Radio general public stations broadcast the same news capsule every hour, and IBA‘s Kol Israel stations broadcast theirs.