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Nov 13, 2012

Heads spinning after Ten's 'bloody Monday' makes news

Helen Kapalos, Bill Woods, Paul Henry, Ron Wilson, Kathryn Robinson ... the bodies are piling up at the Ten Network as Lachlan Murdoch makes up for past mistakes.

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Channel 10

Call it “bloody Monday”, or the most cynical set of sackings since Eddie McGuire and Jeff Browne wondered if they would “bone” newsreader Jessica Rowe from the Nine Network a few years ago.

The Ten Network continues to wield the axe and cut its most successful ratings business, its news division, with three newsreaders sacked in Sydney and Perth late yesterday. That followed the axing of the Breakfast program on and the mid-morning news bulletin earlier in the day, and the hasty forced redundancy of Melbourne news reader Helen Kapalos on Friday night.

In fact, the campaign to rid itself of on-air and off-air talent has all the hallmarks of a cynical network management prepared to say anything to avoid telling the truth. On at least two occasions the network, through its spokespeople and management, made claims about a program (Breakfast) and at least one newsreader (Bill Woods in Sydney) that were shown to be lies by later decisions from management. And it raises questions around how serious the network’s commitment to TV journalism is.

Woods was dispensed with late yesterday, leaving professional survivor Sandra Sully as the sole host of the 5pm news in the country’s biggest media market. After flicking Kapalos from her Melbourne co-hosting role after Friday night’s bulletin, Ten spent all weekend denying Woods would go.

The axing of Breakfast and the morning news (with the departure of another veteran reader in Ron Wilson) was never announced publicly, only leaking when staff were informed. And it came 16 days after Ten told the world the show would return in 2013. That’s close to the fastest management rethink of the year. Was management lying on October 26 when they said Breakfast would return?

Expensive Kiwi Paul Henry has been deported and Breakfast co-host Kathryn Robinson will also depart, leaving weather presenter Magdalena Roze as the only survivor from the show. In Perth there was an equally cynical move to flick co-anchor Craig Smart — he only joined the network late last year, making him cheap to “bone” and lift the body count in a cost effective manner.

It should be remembered Ten chairman Lachlan Murdoch drove the first round of sackings of around 60 people, most of whom came from the news division, when he assumed the interim CEO role at the start of 2011 in the wake of his move against then-CEO Grant Blackley and chairman Nick Falloon. Those cuts were made among those hired for the unsuccessful 6-7pm news and current affairs hour, including host George Negus. Sully’s head is still spinning after shifting from the late-night news to host at 6.30pm, moving back to 10.30pm when the bulletin was axed only to be put back at 5pm when Deborah Knight was boned.

Breakfast was Murdoch’s idea. It failed, just like the big-budget reality flop Everybody Dance Now hosted by his wife. The Ten annual report shows that a party related to “LK  Murdoch” received about $502,000 in the year to August 31. In other words, the Murdoch family member who hosted one of the expensive flops which helped push Ten into a $12 million loss was paid, while around 100 staff are being sacked to cut costs and relieve the pressures from that loss and other dud programming decisions by the chairman and his board.

Glenn Dyer —

Glenn Dyer

Crikey business and media commentator

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