A Current Affair was first broadcast on 22 November 1971, with Mike Willesee, screening week nights at 7:00 pm, and was broadcast for GTV-9. For part of its early run, the comedian and actor Paul Hogan had a comic social commentary segment. Under Willesee, ACA was a Transmedia production for the Nine Network.
When Willesee left Nine in 1974 to move to the rival 0–10 Network, journalist Mike Minehan took over presenting ACA. Other presenters included Sue Smith, Kevin Sanders and Michael Schildberger.
The original A Current Affair was cancelled on 28 April 1978, followed by strong competitions in the 7:00 pm timeslot from Willesee at Seven on Seven Network and Graham Kennedy's Blankety Blanks on the 0–10 Network.
In 1984, Willesee returned to the Nine Network to revive the format in a series titled Willesee, screening Monday to Thursday nights at 9:30 pm. The following year, Willesee moved to the earlier 6:30 pm timeslot and extended to five nights a week, running until 1988, when Willesee's production company, Transmedia, sold the rights to the program to the Nine Network.
When Willesee left the presenting role, former 60 Minutes presenter Jana Wendt took over on 18 January 1988 and the show once again became A Current Affair. This was the same week the Seven Network's soap opera Home and Away was introduced.
The Seven Network introduced direct competition with Real Life, which later became Today Tonight. Jana Wendt left the program in November 1992, unhappy with an ACA story showing topless women.
In 1993, original ACA presenter Mike Willesee took over for the whole year. In February 1994, Ray Martin took over. Martin signed off at the end of November 1998.
When Mike Munro was axed from the program in 2002, he returned to This Is Your Life, 60 Minutes, and later National Nine News in Sydney.
After Mike Munro's departure, Ray Martin returned in February 2003, and signed off again at the start of December 2005. During the 2005/2006 holiday period, the Nine Network announced that ACA was to be "rested" for four weeks to enable a major revamp of the production to take place. On 30 January 2006, two weeks after the program's return, ACA was re-launched with new presenter Tracy Grimshaw.
Launching in 1991, QTQ-9 in Brisbane produced a local version of the program, titled Extra. It carried local stories including the lead up to its NRL Grand Finals. Despite its eighteen long years of popularity and ratings success, the local current affairs program was axed, due to a major schedule cleanup for making space for Nine's now-scrapped one-hour current affairs program, This Afternoon, presented by Andrew Daddo, Katrina Blowers and Mark Ferguson from 4:30pm weekdays starting the following Monday after its final ever broadcast. The decision was part of a push to nationalise lead-in content for the network's struggling news bulletins. The game show Hot Seat was moved to replace Extra at 5.30pm.
In 2002, NWS-9 in Adelaide produced a local version of the program presented by weekend news presenter Georgina McGuinness. It carried national stories, but featured more local stories including the lead up to the 2002 AFL Grand Final. The Adelaide edition was short lived due to the very heavy competition of the Seven Network Adelaide's Today Tonight.
In January 2008, WIN Corporation announced that a new local version of ACA would be produced in Western Australia to replace the east coast version presented by Tracy Grimshaw. It was presented by Louise Momber, with special investigators Peter van Onselen and Michael Southwell.
The first state based edition since Adelaide in 2002, the program's initial presenter, former newsreader Sonia Vinci, resigned prior to the show's commencement and was replaced by Louise Momber. The program was launched on 20 October 2008. A week later on 27 October, WIN launched an Adelaide version of the show on Adelaide, with Adelaide's National Nine News reporter Kate Collins presenting. Both versions were short-lived — on 30 November 2009, WIN announced that Perth and Adelaide would return to the national format.
Overall in the 2008 Australian TV ratings, ACA achieved 1,124,000 viewers, 250,000 viewers behind the Seven Network's Today Tonight, which achieved 1,374,000 viewers.1971–1974 – Mike Willesee
1974–1978 – Michael Schildberger
1984–1987 – Mike Willesee (as Willesee, direct predecessor of A Current Affair which continued with the same format and the same theme tune)
1988–1992 – Jana Wendt
1993 – Mike Willesee
1994–1998 – Ray Martin
1998–2002 – Mike Munro
2003–2005 – Ray Martin
2006–present – Tracy Grimshaw
Leila McKinnon is the main fill-in presenter when Grimshaw is on leave. Nine News presenter Ben Fordham, Weekend Today host Deborah Knight and reporter Brady Halls have also filled in for Grimshaw.2006–2008 – Jillian Whiting
2009 – Heather Foord
In 2009, Extra was axed with the Nine Network investing money into other areas within the network. All Extra reporters were spread across the network in other reporting capacities from A Current Affair to Nine News.
Presenters:2002 – Georgina McGuinness
2008–2009 – Kate Collins
Michael Smyth was a fill-in presenter for Kate CollinsRay Martin
Like its main rival broadcast on the Seven Network, Today Tonight, A Current Affair is often considered by media critics and the public at large to use sensationalist journalism – as depicted in the parody television show Frontline – and to deliberately present advertising as editorial content, as previously exposed on the ABC program Media Watch. Stories covered by ACA rotate around community issues i.e. diet fads, miracle cures, welfare cheats, shonky builders, negligent doctors, poorly run businesses and corrupt government officials.
In 1996, the show reported on the Paxton family from the impoverished Melbourne suburb of St Albans. The family were told that the show was about helping the family members to get jobs, but the version that aired claimed that the family were "dole bludgers" refusing reasonable offers of employment. After the story aired, the family received death threats.
In September 2006 ACA was ordered to pay over $320,000 to former Australian swimming coach Greg Hodge in relation to indefensible defamatory allegations made in a 2003 story relating to Hodge's conduct towards a former swim student.
In March 2010 ACA was found to have defamed acclaimed plastic surgeon Peter Anthony Haertsch in allegations aired in a 2008 report about a Gold Coast woman's breast enlargement procedure, and ordered to pay $268,000 damages.
In June 2008 ACA broadcast a program about Queensland property developer Lev Mizikovsky. Mizikovsky sued ACA claiming he was defamed by the broadcast and in November 2011 a jury agreed, but found the defamatory meanings were defensible. Mizikovsky is now liable for costs, which are reported to exceed $2 million.
On 7 November 2012, a segment was broadcast giving the impression that Asian people were taking over a shopping centre in Castle Hill, New South Wales. After numerous viewer complaints, the Australian Communications and Media Authority found the segment had breached the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice in three clauses, including "containing inaccurate factual material", "placing gratuitous emphasis on ethnic origin" and "likely to provoke intense dislike and serious contempt on the grounds of ethnic origin". Stand-in host, Leila McKinnon made an on-air apology on 13 September 2013.