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Follow the Power: Williams fires up … Leckie’s boast … Epstein to Optus …

Kim Williams gets straight to the point. When The Power Index spoke to New Ltd boss Kim Williams late last year, he told us that he’s “not backward in coming forward … I’m not a great believer in toiling the soil before getting stuck into a problem”.

We reckon he’s lived up to his word with his letter published in The Australian Financial Review today, in which he emphatically disputes the paper’s allegations that News Corp subsidiary NDS engaged in piracy to beat down the share price of pay-TV competitors.

He has derided the AFR’s coverage as a “disservice” to journalism and “nothing more than an exercise in tar and feathering” based on “manipulated and often misunderstood stolen communications”. And he’s urged the paper to “put up or shut up” and take its allegations to the AFP.

Meanwhile, he’s written to his own troops to keep them updated with what he calls a serious “assault on our reputation”, attaching his missive to the AFR in an email to staff this morning (special thanks to Justinian for that one). He certainly earned his places on the Digital Media (due to his work at Foxtel) and Media Maestros (for his work at News) power lists.

MasterChef’s got no chance. At least that’s the opinion of Seven West Media boss and No. 6 on the Media Maestros power list David Leckie, who believes the fourth series of Channel 10’s culinary hit show will “struggle” in the ratings in 2012.

Leckie told the AFR we can all expect Seven to continue to kill it in the ratings in 2012, despite a new line-up of shows from rivals Nine and the Ten Network, and new series of existing powerhouses like MasterChef.

Seven can thank Leckie for its recent spate of success and the fact the network has won every official ratings week since September 2010. As one producer recently told The Power Index: ”He knows what works and what doesn’t, even if he can’t articulate it. He just has that instinct.” Indeed, “he’s like Kerry”.

And as the always colourful Leckie said himself, he’s “not bad for an old fart”. Let’s hope his bosses continue to think so too.

Rudd staffer coup for Optus. David Epstein’s worked beside Kevin Rudd  — so we’re fairly sure he knows how to handle any office environment. He’s now heading over to Optus to handle the telco’s corporate and regulatory affairs.

When Epstein resigned as Rudd’s chief of staff in 2008 he was replaced by his deputy, the then 29-year-old Alister Jordan. Epstein was, at the time, credited with playing “a pivotal role in federal Labor’s election victory”. He later surprised his former ALP employers by moving over to BHP Billiton, where he was made head of public affairs in a bid to shore up the company’s government relations team.

Esptein’s Optus appointment comes in line with a significant management restructure aimed at realigning the telco with parent company SingTel. It’s also a time of adjustment for Optus: there’s the National Broadband Network and a revived competitor to worry about, Telstra.

IPA poll takes a swing at Flannery. Meanwhile, over at conservative think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, a Galaxy poll they’ve commissioned has found a quarter of Australians find environmentalist Tim Flannery unreliable (more of the respondents found him reliable, a majority said they didn’t know).

It’s unsurprising the IPA would trumpet the findings; in our profile of boss John Roskam last year we reported that they had been key backers of noted climate sceptic Ian Plimer.

The findings, which The Daily Telegraph ran on page 10 today, shouldn’t bother Flannery too much. He’s used to such criticism, having told us last year that it’s a sign that his side of the debate is “winning”.

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