A day in the life of… RN Breakfast

A day in the life of… RN Breakfast

Telum spent a morning with RN Breakfast recently to find out... how does a national breakfast programme get to air?

The ABC’s RN Breakfast team is busy preparing for the morning’s show. Host Fran Kelly and Executive Producer Sheryle Bagwell are swapping notes on the Syrian chemical weapons attack, prepping questions for Fran’s interview with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and skimming through the major metro newspapers. ABC News 24 is on in the background, Associate Producer Marina Freri is securing last-minute guests for the show, and Producer / Newsreader Matt Bevan is getting his stories sorted and looking for grabs.    

Matt is reading up on the latest from the US and putting together a news story on the removal of Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, from the National Security Council. It’s fast approaching showtime and the team is typing away and printing last minute notes, all quiet expect for the odd “read this” or “when was that said?”

It's definitely not a slow news day.

With a few minutes left until the show goes to air, Fran checks with producers on any updates she needs to know before the show goes live and discusses last-minute changes with Sheryle.

Fran runs into the studio, where Senior Producer Steven Turner and Sound Engineer Ann-Marie Debettencor are standing by in the production studio, checking the length of story packages, individual segments and upcoming live interviews for the very tightly curated timeslots.

Theme music is played, a brief introduction from Fran, and a pre-recorded news brief.

During the pre-record there's an "opening rehearsal." Sheryle makes some last-minute tweaks to Fran’s leads, Matt enters the studio for his first news brief… then Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” blares through the speakers. One of today’s stories is about the infamous Broken Hill pub from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, being up for sale. While the atmosphere is tense in anticipation of a smooth start to the show, there’s always space for humour, as Matt dramatically lip-synchs and Fran does a little dance.

In the production studio, multiple screens play live news from national and international TV stations, and there’s a camera recording a studio in RN’s Canberra Parliament House bureau, as well as a giant digital clock. Unsurprisingly, clocks are everywhere.

Steven says they like to start the show with some world news, as RN Breakfast isn’t only at the forefront of national politics but plays a part in setting the international political agenda for Australia. Steven calls today’s talent to make sure they are ready to go, then passes them over to Ann-Marie to check the sound quality. “Can you please count to five?” she prompts them. All clear. “Can you please say Peter Piper?” No sound pops, good to go.

Programmes like this are critical in times of fake news, says Steven. It’s high quality and the facts are double-checked and triple-checked. The team work together to try to work out how things will fit in the show time-wise. There is a set schedule, but of course, anything can happen with live radio and segments often run longer or shorter than planned.

Coffee run. ABC’s AM is broadcast live, which Fran (a skilled multitasker) moniters while frantically rewriting questions. Breakfast will often build on a political interview or story that is featured on AM

Fran is back in the studio as AM ends, for another hour-and-a-half of juggling guests, regular segments, packages and breaking news.  

Fran has a quick chat with Amanda Smith, Co-Host of Life Matters, before she finally signs off. Headphones down, out of the studio. The team has a very quick and casual debrief before another coffee to prepare for their 9.45am editorial meeting. The show doesn’t once it's off-air. 

Telum's top takeaways about RN Breakfast:
· The show is timed down to the second, so every second counts.
· The team are setting the day's agenda, so national, international and breaking news are key. But there's always room for a good yarn. 
· The RN Breakfast audience is well-informed and tune in because they want to be engaged on the important issues. 

More stories

Telum media database

  • Marina Freri
  • Steven Turner
  • Sheryle Bagwell
  • Fran Kelly
  • Matthew Bevan
  • Amanda Smith
  • ABC Radio National ABC Radio National - RN Breakfast
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