The Future of 24-Hour News

New Directions, New Challenges

by Stephen Cushion (Volume editor) Richard Sambrook (Volume editor)
©2016 Textbook VII, 349 Pages


Over the last 30 years 24-hour television news channels have reshaped the practice and culture of journalism. But the arrival of new content and social media platforms over recent years has challenged their power and authority, with fast-changing technologies accelerating the speed of news delivery and reshaping audience behaviour. Following on from The Rise of 24-Hour News Television: Global Perspectives (Cushion and Lewis, 2010), this volume explores new challenges and pressures facing television news channels, and considers the future of 24-hour news. Featuring a wide range of industry and academic perspectives, including the heads of some of the major international news channels (BBC Global News, Al Jazeera and Sky News, among others) as well as leading academics from around the world, contributors reflect on how well rolling television news is reinventing itself for digital platforms and the rapidly changing expectations of audiences. Overall, the 24 chapters in this volume deliver fresh insights into how 24-hour news channels have redefined rolling news journalism – or potentially could do – in order to remain relevant and effective in supplying continuous news for 21st-century audiences.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction: The Future of 24-Hour News: New Directions, New Challenges
  • Part I. Industry Challenges and Pressures: International Perspectives
  • Setting the Scene and Provoking Debate
  • Chapter 1: Have 24-Hour TV News Channels Had Their Day?
  • The View from the Control Room: Executives and Editors on the Future of 24-Hour Television News
  • Chapter 2: The View from the United States: Three Forces Shaping the Future of Video News
  • Chapter 3: The View from Europe: “All Views” First
  • Chapter 4: The View from Russia: “Your News Channel” Is Here to Stay
  • Chapter 5: The View from Australia: How Will We Be Heard?
  • Chapter 6: The View from the UK: Sky News
  • Chapter 7: The View from the UK: The BBC – “Channel Wars, Streaming Wars”
  • Chapter 8: The View from the Middle East: Al Jazeera
  • Chapter 9: View of the News Agencies: The Struggle for Renewal and Renaissance
  • Part II. Understanding the Past, Present and Future of 24-hour News: Changing Conventions and Journalism Practices
  • Chapter 10: Revisiting the Three Phases of 24-Hour News Television in the Age of Social Media
  • Chapter 11: Televisual Newspapers? When 24/7 Television News Channels Join Newspapers as “Old Media”
  • Chapter 12: 24-Hour News Channels around the Globe: Continuity or Change?
  • The Political Economy and Journalisms of 24-Hour News Culture
  • Chapter 13: Financial Challenges of 24-Hour News Channels
  • Chapter 14: Quick Quick Slow: From Fast News to Slow News
  • Chapter 15: Journalism in the Age of the “Interface”
  • Chapter 16: Networked Reporting on Al Jazeera English: Context, Challenges and Comparative Advantages
  • Chapter 17: Twitter and the Rolling-News Agenda in Sports News
  • Chapter 18: Producing News in the Moment: Video Journalism in an Increasingly Converged 24/7 Media Environment
  • National Contexts and Journalistic Challenges
  • Chapter 19: The International Newsgathering Challenge for Public Service Australian and Canadian 24/7 TV Channels
  • Chapter 20: Anti-Social Media: Watching, Hearing and Talking about Politics in US Cable News Channels
  • Chapter 21: The Evolving Format of US Cable News and the Proliferation of Opinion
  • Chapter 22: 24-Hour News in Australia: Public Service and Private Interests
  • Chapter 23: Where Infotainment Rules: TV News from India
  • Chapter 24: CCTV 24-Hour Chinese-Language News: From Offline to Online
  • Contributors
  • Index


24-hour news is no longer a new or novel part of journalism. Dedicated television news channels, after all, have been operating for well over thirty years, whilst online news or live rolling blogs are now decades old. More recently, new content and social media platforms—from YouTube to Twitter, Weibo to Facebook, Vine to Periscope—have accelerated the pace of news delivery, instantly publishing at the tap of an app a story, comment, photo, pre-recorded image or live moving pictures. News is now supplied in a more fluid form and faster pace than at any other point in history, radically different to the culture of journalism in 1980 when CNN launched the first-ever 24-hour television news channel. Even at the beginning of the new millennium, the growing army of dedicated television news channels around the world did not face the same level of competition or type of editorial pressures from today’s hyper-accelerated news culture.

For news has converged at spectacular speed: from smart phones to radios, television sets to tablets, newspapers to computers, people can—and increasingly do—move seamlessly between an ever-extending menu of media platforms. As internet penetration has increased over recent decades and more people connect online to new portable devices that allow news to be easily consumed throughout the day, the role and purpose of dedicated 24-hour television news channels has been brought into sharper focus. Whereas rolling news channels could once claim to bring viewers breaking news first, in most cases today they will be second best to social media or online rolling blogs. For the monopoly of 24-hour news television delivering rolling news as it happens is well and truly over, as increasingly ← 1 | 2 →sophisticated and affordable technology allows not just journalists but ordinary citizens the power to instantly share information and observations about what is happening in the world.

In light of these developments, the aim of this edited book is to explore the challenges facing television news channels and to consider the future direction of 24-hour news journalism. While the arrival of always-on, continuous television news channels has made a big impact on the wider culture of journalism over the last thirty years, new digital technology and converged media platforms, as well as changing audience behaviour and demands, prompt not just timely but existential questions about the current and future role of 24-hour news television. We consider four issues that confront television news channels today and in their immediate future, before outlining the structure of the book and introducing each chapter.

First, as new content and social media platforms can publish news far more quickly than television, how have 24-hour news channels responded? Have they adapted to new breaking news pressures? Social media, such as Twitter, connect instantly to a global network of hungry news consumers, whereas many news channels attract tiny audiences most of the time unless a major breaking story erupts. Since many news channels still market themselves as being first with breaking news, will they change editorial direction or try to keep up with the pace of social media? Of course, news channels do not operate in isolation from other media platforms, but will their social media presence soon overtake the importance and resources invested in broadcasting live breaking news?

As it stands, social media do not look likely to imminently replace the television set as the main source of news. According to a recent cross-national survey (Reuters Institute of Journalism, 2015), television news continues to be the dominant source of news for most people in the Western world. Although social media use has increased in recent years, it remains by some distance behind TV, online and, in some cases, even newspapers (as the main source of news, it represents 3%–12% in 12 of the most advanced nations surveyed—Reuters Institute of Journalism, 2015). When younger people are isolated the use of online and social media dramatically increases, but generationally it remains to be seen whether this represents the future of news consumption.

However, it could be technology and changing platforms—not necessarily audience habits—that threaten the lifespan of 24-hour news television channels. A second major issue facing news channels is that the television experience as we know it could soon be coming to an end as online services converge on the same platform. IPTVs (internet television information and online portals) promise to be the future of media consumption in many people’s households, with news channels operating side-by-side with the world of online and social media. While many people are already familiar with smart TVs, IPTVs could connect multiple devices and more seamlessly allow news to be consumed between sources and personalized ← 2 | 3 →for individual consumer tastes. The old-fashioned view of a TV remote controller would radically change; it would not just act as a means of switching between channels but open up a world of new sources—raw and unedited to polished and packaged—for people to pick from and interact with. Like newspapers transforming their journalism for the online age, 24-hour news channels may need to reconsider how to communicate with their viewers on multiple levels. As the many chapters in this book testify to, this convergence is already well underway. Launching a YouTube Channel in 2007, for example, RT (formerly Russia Today) captures up to a million online viewers each day, allowing users to choose between different genres of news (from uploaded user-generated content to documentaries and extended interviews).

Of course, such changes remain predicated first on technology—how soon and effectively will IPTVs seamlessly guide an ordinary viewer across sources and between different platforms—and secondly on attracting mainly savvy and interactive audiences. While it may appear old-fashioned and costly, anchors fronting a menu of continuous news may still appeal to many viewers content for someone else to be their gatekeeper. Since it has been the dominant way television journalism has been communicated for more than fifty years, the supply of raw footage or live feeds does not presuppose a big demand for it.

But a third issue that may force news channels into abandoning presenters, and producing less polished and packaged material, is the high production costs that go into running a 24-hour rolling news station. After all, the journalistic costs of a news channel—from owning and managing a large studio, maintaining a continuous live presence, paying presenters, operating studio equipment, or dealing with a broadcast licence—far outweigh the outlay of expenditure for most online news and social media platforms. Covering breaking news stories around the world means credible international news channels invest a huge amount of resources into flying journalists, editorial staff and camera crews to far-flung locations.

Of course, how much news channels invest in these resources can differ—CNN, for instance, spends dramatically more on covering international affairs than its more domestically-minded rivals in the US (US State of Media, 2015). By contrast, many smaller, commercially run regional or national regional news channels rely to a great extent on news agencies for images and footage and do not necessarily have a live schedule of continuous news programming 24 hours a day. Needless to say, this is not out of journalistic choice but necessity and explains why—as Robert G. Picard outlines in Chapter 13—many organisations find it difficult to start up a news channel or operate at a loss. Of the international news channels that do operate around the clock, perhaps unsurprisingly many are public service oriented or operate as state broadcasters. In Chapter 12, Rai and Cottle’s research demonstrates that 24-hour news channels continue to flourish ← 3 | 4 →and expand their reach and influence around the world. But for many, their long-term survival does appear precarious without state backing.

Nevertheless, since the political economy of many rolling news channels has always been built on shaky foundations, their continued existence may rely on the wider take up on new content and social media platforms. While a Putin-backed RT can continue to pump millions into the news channel, for example, at what point will public service broadcasters such as the BBC find it difficult to legitimise the expensive costs of international rolling TV news stations when they could turn to more effective platforms of 24-hour news? So, for example, in 2015 the BBC announced it was considering making its UK television news channel an online only service (Conlan, 2015). It was a proposal put forward to make efficiency savings at the BBC and may not be fully implemented in the short term. But even by considering this option, it suggests television news channels will face more existential threats in the not too distant future.

However, above all, it is the fourth issue facing 24-hour news channels—the editorial values they will champion in the future—that may ultimately play the biggest part in deciding their long-term survival. Rolling television news channels will need to editorially evolve to remain relevant in an increasingly crowded and competitive media environment. As previously acknowledged, 24-hour news channels no longer regularly break news ahead of rival platforms. While putting accuracy above speed has long defined debates about the rolling news genre, it would be difficult to maintain this editorial standard if 24-hour news channels attempted to keep up with the frenetic pace of online news or social media. Indeed, the different levels of trust invested in competing media platforms by news audiences was acknowledged in Reuters Institute of Journalism (2015) cross-national survey: “Social media are not seen as a destination for accurate and reliable journalism but more as a way of getting access to it.” Of course, critics will be quick to point to the partisan US cable news stations—notably Fox News and MSNBC (explored in Chapters 20 and 21)—or the highly partial view on the world presented by state-backed channels such as RT (examined in Chapter 4). But these are the exception to the norm, since television remains a closely regulated medium in most countries, and committed to maintaining balance and confidence from its viewers.

If 24-hour news television succumbed to the pressure of delivering breaking news at even greater speed, or attempted to match the personalized and opinionated nature of platforms such as Twitter, many organisations could risk losing their market credibility. Needless to say, there are moments when rolling television news appear to have already adopted this strategy—in the immediate aftermath of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in 2014, for instance, when too much coverage reported speculation and wild rumours, rather than establishing the facts or verifying sources. But where television news can be distinctive from ← 4 | 5 →Twitter feeds or rolling blogs is not in regularly beating rival media to a breaking news scoop, but in drawing on a large team of professionally-trained editorial staff to immediately supply the necessary context and analysis to a story. From experienced anchors to expert reporters, a well-resourced 24-hour news channel can make far better sense of fast-moving events than is possible in 140 characters. As a former head of BBC television news put it, “On breaking news stories, a television news channel can guide viewers coherently through a fast-changing situation—and the skill of the presenter is essential for linking and making sense of what is happening. In busy times and quiet times, interviews are at the heart of a news channel: correspondents analysing the latest developments or news-makers popping into the studio to give information or be grilled about what they’ve done” (Mosey, 2015). Indeed, drawing on the analytical skills of journalists, many news channels now also include specialist programming in their daily schedules. Overall, rolling television news channels have the challenging task of safeguarding these and other editorial values, whilst finding new ways to diversify what is meant by 24-hour news journalism and remaining distinctive from rival online and social media platforms.

This book reflects on these and wider debates surrounding news channels in a global context, considering the future of 24-hour news from a range of industry and academic perspectives. Since The Rise of 24-Hour News Television: Global Perspectives (Cushion and Lewis, 2010) was published, there have not been any major book-length assessments of 24-hour news channels or about the changing nature of rolling news television formats. While the rise of social and online media has attracted considerable attention within journalism, media, and communication scholarship, our intention is to put television news back under the spotlight and consider whether and in what ways rolling news channels have been reshaped due to pressure from more instant platforms of news. Our aim is not only to bring together leading academics around the world, but also to ask the heads of some of the biggest news channels or their senior editors and managers to reflect on the present state and future role of 24-hour news television in the context of new competition from online and social media platforms.

The book is split into two parts, with five total subsections. The first part explores the challenges and pressures facing international broadcasters from the perspectives of senior industry figures, whilst the second primarily draws on contributions from academics around the world. Chapter One begins with Richard Sambrook, a former head of BBC news, who helped to launch the BBC News 24 channel in 1997 but is sceptical about the long-term survival of 24-hour news channels. In a provocative chapter designed to elicit debate, he and media strategist Sean McGuire argue that what was transformational 30 years ago is no longer fit for purpose as the internet increasingly meets our information needs.

← 5 | 6 →The second section includes eight chapters from some of the leading editors in the world of rolling news. In different ways, they set out their own views about the current state of 24-hour news television and consider how broadcasters will respond to the many challenges they face in a new media environment.

In Chapter Two, the former president of ABC News in the US, David Westin, argues that the future of video news will be shaped by three forces: the loss of the TV schedule; the expansion of video news producers to include just about everyone; and the transformation of news consumers into editors and of editors into curators. And he considers how the growing partisanship in US 24-hour news is having a detrimental effect on democratic debate.

In Chapter Three, Michael Peters, the Chief Executive of Euronews—the pan-Europe, multilingual news service—argues for the increasing importance of a broad diversity of views being represented in TV news. He explains how this principle, along with maintaining a strong brand, lies at the heart of his strategy for transforming Euronews as, like other TV channels, it seeks to compete with the challenges of the internet and the information deluge offered by digital platforms.

In Chapter Four, the Editor-in-Chief of RT, Margarita Simonyan, argues that the inherent strengths of TV as an information and storytelling medium will ensure 24-hour channels survive in the long term. But she says they need greater differentiation, adopting a wider range of perspectives and deeper more pro-active engagement with audiences via social media.

In Chapter Five, Mark Scott, the former Director General of the ABC in Australia, outlines how TV news can hold its own against fierce competition from a wide range of new digital services—in particular, mobile. By adopting new formats, data journalism, and greater interactivity through the social web he believes TV news can prosper if it retains trust and relevance to audiences.

In Chapter Six, the Head of Sky News in the UK, John Ryley, directly takes on the Sambrook/McGuire argument and says a 24-hour TV channel is essential to provide the core of visual journalism to a successful multiplatform news service. He suggests that technology simply provides new and different tools to achieve the same ends: getting and telling news stories as swiftly and engagingly as possible.

In Chapter Seven, Peter Horrocks, until recently the BBC’s Director of the World Service group, recalls the TV news battles between the BBC and Sky and looks at how digital platforms are now challenging in different ways all the core functions of TV news. He argues the channels need to become the gateways to other services, suggesting, like John Ryley, that they can sit at the heart of a multiplatform offer.

In Chapter Eight, Ibrahim Helal from Al Jazeera offers a personal view of the pressures and difficulties faced by news providers in the Middle East. He laments the increased politicisation of media in the region and he sees a growing gap between producers and audiences. He concludes with a call for broadcasters to renew ← 6 | 7 →their commitment to strong editorial values in the face of many challenges from competitors and audiences to traditional objective standards.

In Chapter Nine, the former Editor-in-Chief of Reuters News agency, David Schlesinger, recalls the core role of the news agencies in providing TV news and considers how they can renew themselves. He suggests the advent of 24-hour news channels changed the news agencies role forever and now they need to reinvent themselves again by differentiating themselves and moving from business-to-business to business-to-consumer services.

Section 3 puts debates about the present and future role of 24-hour news television into historical perspective and maps out the channels operating around the world. Since CNN launched its news channel in 1980, this section considers the growth and impact of 24-hour news television. In Chapter 10, Stephen Cushion examines how 24-hour news television has evolved over more than three decades. Revisiting a chapter written in 2010 to mark the 30th anniversary of CNN (Cushion, 2010), he asks whether the life-cycle of 24-hour news television could still be defined by three phases as originally argued. After all, he suggests, with new content and social media platforms delivering news instantaneously, it could be that the purpose and character of 24-hour news channels has moved to a fourth phase in order to keep up with the wider pace of news culture. However, in assessing news channels in the social media age, he argues they have not radically changed and remain committed to breaking news instantly regardless of whether they break the story or not. Rather than recent years signalling a departure from the third phase of 24-hour news channels—which marked a period when broadcasters accelerated the speed of news reporting—he suggests not just a reinforcement but an enhancement of it. He suggests a fourth (and possibly final) phase of 24-hour news is likely once the experience of television viewing more fully converges with the online world.

In Chapter 11, Michael Bromley examines the development of news channels by comparing them with how newspapers have evolved in the online era. He suggests that while rolling news television could be considered “new” media towards the end of the 20th century, today they appear old-fashioned just like newspapers. He looks at how newspapers have had to respond to online competition and draws similarities with the challenges faced by rolling news channels. Considering the editorial character of different platforms, he argues that far from “new” media displacing “old” media, each has distinctive value and unique characteristics. Acknowledging that media consumption habits have changed due to new instant news formats and broader changes in people’s lifestyles, Bromley concludes that journalism will continue to evolve in communicating news to audiences.

Chapter 12 examines the present landscape of 24-hour news channels on a global level. Revisiting a study carried out in 2009, Mugdha Rai and Simon Cottle empirically explore whether the rise of social media and continued growth ← 7 | 8 →of online has reduced the number of rolling news channels operating around the world. Far from 24-hour news channels being in decline, they conclude that more channels have been launched in different regions and languages. They consider different the dynamics at play for local, national and global dedicated news channels, mapping out the continuity and changes compared to their previous study. In concluding the chapter, Rai and Cottle challenge any notion that the 24-hour news landscape represents a “global public sphere” or conveys “global western dominance.” Drawing attention to the localization, regionalization and fragmentation of 24-hour news over recent years, they consider the forces that shape not just the continued growth of rolling news channels, but also the factors that influence the diversity of content in different regions around the world.

The six chapters in Section 4 examine the constraints imposed by the political economy of 24-hour news television, explaining how particular journalisms have evolved because of industry pressures and expectations, as well as changes in technology and forces of globalization. In Chapter 13, Robert G. Picard outlines in detail the financial costs associated with running a news channel and the infrastructure involved. He explains how the budget for channels can vary considerably, from international to more localised broadcasters, and according to whether they are state funded, privately owned or commercially driven. Although many commercial channels struggle to deliver an always-on, rolling news service with limited advertising revenue, US cable news outlets are used as an example of delivering high revenues and returning profits. The chapter then examines how particular states fund some of the most widely watched around the world such as Russia Today (RT), BBC World, Al Jazeera and China Central Television (CCTV). Finally, news channels funded by private individuals or enterprises are considered, and the political and economic goals behind them. Picard concludes the survival of 24-hour news will be shaped less by commercial forces, but rather by the governments and private owners funding them.

In Chapter 14, Justin Lewis considers an alternative way of running 24-hour news channels, a departure from the frenetic pace that has characterised the genre for decades. He develops the idea of “slow news,” asking what this concept might be and whether it is possible to imagine in the norms and routines associated with much of contemporary journalism. Lewis traces the origins of slow news back to newspapers in the 19th century, when news was part of political and civic education seeking to challenge government or corporate power. But tighter government regulation, new business models and forms of instant communication—live broadcasting or telephones—meant news became increasingly defined by immediacy and bringing the latest or breaking coverage. According to Lewis, the shift away from slow news is a missed opportunity, since it can produce more balanced, contextualised and analytical journalism. Ending on an optimistic note, he argues new forms of storytelling online—hyperlocal blogs, for instance—potentially leave ← 8 | 9 →open the possibility for the next generation to popularise the use of slow news sources.

In Chapter 15, Ingrid Volkmer more broadly and conceptually considers these new forms of communication, and how they have changed what is meant and understood by 24-hour news. In an increasingly globalised and transnational media environment, she unpacks concepts such as “crossborder circuits” and “interface” to interpret how digital media is dramatically changing the production and consumption of journalism. She concludes journalism scholars need to pay more attention to interrogating the digital experiences of media consumption and communication. In doing so, Volkmer suggests, it will better represent today’s transnational journalism and the interface used to engage and inform people.


VII, 349
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (August)
Television news channel Global perspectives of Television Journalism International news channels
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. VII, 349 pp.

Biographical notes

Stephen Cushion (Volume editor) Richard Sambrook (Volume editor)

Stephen Cushion (PhD, Cardiff University) is Reader at the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. He is the author of News and Politics: The Rise of Live and Interpretive Journalism (2015), The Democratic Value of News: Why Public Service Media Matter (2012) and Television Journalism (2012). Richard Sambrook (MSc, Birkbeck, London) is Professor of Journalism and Director of the Centre for Journalism at the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. He is a former Director of Global News at the BBC, where he worked as a journalist for 30 years as a producer, editor and manager.


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