It’s been a long time coming, only the replacement of Paul Fenn was a
bit of a shock, but Jim Rudder’s renovations of the Nine Network’s News
and Current Affairs business continues.

Paul Fenn’s stepping down as Channel Nine’s Network Director of
News came as no surprise but his replacement with Max Uechtritz has
come as a complete shock to everyone in the industry.

There’s
no doubting that Fennie, as he’s known in the Nine newsrooms, has been
on shortened time for somewhile with Rudder, and David Gyngell and John
Alexander, the unseen hand in all of the clean out.

Fennie’s
illness last month stalled the axe, but he had told people in the
newsroom earlier in the year that he was not expecting to be renewed
when his contract was up in April. And so it has come to pass.

This
time the axeing has been less bloody than the blow-up with Peter Meakin
quit last year after being told offhandedly by Alexander to sack
Michael Pascoe as Nine Finance Editor.

Meakin quit and ended up at rival Seven, a move Kerry Packer was unhappy about as he had planned to have Meakin eased
out but retained as a highly paid consultant, available only to Nine.

That
failed and Meakin has started carving into Nine’s supremacy in news and
current affairs by recruiting Ian Ross from Nine, who was put out to
pasture by Packer after retiring. Anna Coren also went to Seven from
Nine and has done well.

It’s intriguing that Rudder didn’t look
inside Nine for Fenn’s replacement. There were no shortage of
candidates but that is probably a sign of how determined he is to smash
the old culture at Nine, which is also an ambition of Packer, and
through him, Alexander.

We all remember Meakin’s reported quote
where he described Alexander as a “24 carat c—“. And Rudder has told
staff at functions that he thinks too many people have spent too long
at Channel 9 and should get out more!

Now watch for the change
at GTV 9 in Melbourne where the plan is to shift long time News boss
and jounalism legend John Sorrel to the consultant’s chair and make
long-time understudy Michael Venus News Director.

And there are
similar ambitions for the Nine in Brisbane at QTQ where Neil Mooney
quit last year as station boss after opposition from Gyngell and others.

Lee
Anderson is news boss there and he’s been in the firing line,
especially after the intriguing act of rebellion that’s now become
legend at Nine. Seems several weeks ago Rudder went to Brisbane for a
meet and greet and a chat with the newsroom staff and after the
bulletin shouted dinner.

During the meal, Rudder, in his usual
subtle way started commenting on the quality of the news and the staff.
This went on for sometime until the staff tired of his comments and as
one got up and left the restaraunt, leaving Jim, alone to pay the bill.

Being
an old Brisbane boy Jim was able to make his way to his hotel, but stay
tuned, as they say in teevee land, it ain’t over yet in Brissie town.

And Nine Sydney newsreaders are now running a book that Jauanita
Phillips, a favourite of the ABC bosss, will be aboard the NIne wagon
sooner rather than later now that Big Max is on the job.

Alexander
tried to sweet talk Juanita into ditching the National Broadcaster and
clambering aboard his machine in the Christmas-New Year period of 2002.

She
declined, and stayed at the ABC where Tony Eastley was forced to do a
double header with her for most of last year until that got too hard
and Max forced Tony out, leaving Juanita to fly solo.

Could
there be another contender for Mark Ferguson to deal with in the race
to fill Jim Waley’s slot fronting a news that is losing viewers,
despite Jim Rudder’s renovations?

Peter Fray

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