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At last, the Inside Story from ATV

SALLY Round was being frank with a capital ''F'' last week as she sat drinking coffee in the ATV canteen at Broadcast Drive.

'I am under no illusions about getting this programme out. But we have to do what we can, whatever the circumstances.'' Round is editor of ATV World's revamped current affairs programme Inside Story that makes its debut tomorrow at 8.30 pm.

As she took a break from the cramped and windowless office the Inside Story team shares with its Chinese current affairs counterparts and the station's financial unit, Round was confident about the programme's potential.

Current affairs programmes do not have the highest of priorities for Hongkong's two television stations, and their ranking slips even further behind when they are for the minority English channels.

But Round said: ''I have a good team; we have a prime time slot and we have access to sources of material that we did not have before. We are going to keep it contemporary a nd make it much more punchy; we have a lot of potential.'' Inside Story 's predecessor, Monday Monitor, established a reputation for worthy, stolid and sometimes dull reporting. The trouble lay in the rigid format of having two 12-minute items broken by a commercial break, no matter what the weight of the story.

Thin material would sometimes be stretched to breaking point, with interviewees filmed at length with a single camera without any visual cutaways, which caused viewers' attention to wander.


Round, best-known recently for presenting World's weekday news headlines at 7 pm, agreed to take on the job after Monday Monitor 's editor Stuart Pallister left Hongkong with a parting swipe at ATV's parsimony and a perceived lack of concern about English-language programming.

She made it clear she would not take over unless she could act on her own initiative and get rid of what she did not like.

THAT included the Monday Monitor format; after a specially-shot introductory sequence, Inside Story will open with Round in the studio, opening the show.

The running order will be flexible. ''We plan to have one main, in-depth item between 10 and 12 minutes long.


''But the rest of the programme will depend on what else has happened - possibly it might be another piece, or an interview.'' While cagey about revealing the contents of the first show, Round said the lead item was an investigation into foreign exchange dealing in the wake of the AIDS Foundation's $1 million loss and an interview with a Hongkong transsexual with a look at theambiguities behind their status under existing laws.

''The transsexual is the sort of item we want to do more of. Instead of just looking at an issue broadly we want to go a little behind the scenes and pick out the people involved there,'' Round added.


The programme will also use items from the glitzy US current affairs show Inside Edition because ''we have to make Inside Story have a wider view than just Hongkong'', Round explained.

She also plans to get more stories out of southern China, sidestepping the language barrier by sending a single film crew with a reporter from Inside Story and one of their counterparts from an ATV Home channel current affairs programme.

Despite Pallister's comments, Round said ATV's management was ''very interested'' in Inside Story and that the staff would soon be moving into new and larger offices - which should come as a relief to the reporting team of Mona Liu, Patrick McLaughlin, Joanne Gilhooly, along with freelancer Michael Mackey and CNN Today presenter Janine Graham.


''We have this problem being poor - but we can cope and we can still produce a good product. Just watch us and see for yourself,'' Round said.