Terry Television queries the growing trend in which The Bulletin and Sunday are increasingly doing joint investigations for the Packer media empire.

These lines from the March edition of the PBL Newsletter to staff caught Crikey’s interest: “This is a particularly good example of mutually beneficial co-operation where sharing content – and content production costs – brought economies to both parties. It’s often hard to achieve however because of competition over who runs the story first.”

“Sunday and The Bulletin have developed a relationship which will allow them to resolve this issue, possibly by taking turns in breaking the story. They plan to co-produce several more major news stories this year.”

The Nine/ACP version of news management and synergies. The item in the newsletter was talking about the Adam Shand two-part Ganglands piece on Sunday and his cover story, also in February, in The Bulletin.

Is this agood idea? Sort of. So far it seems The Bulletin has got all the good yarns, and Sunday has been left to report The Bully’s news. The Annita Keating stuff is a story that also cried out for an interview on camera, with Jennifer Byrne if necessary – after all she is an old Sunday hand. Maybe Ms Keating was camera shy.

The John Lyons stuff on intelligence has been well handled in The Bulletin and he did an excellent follow up for Sunday. But The Bulletin still broke the news and John Lyons is executive producer of Sunday!

There’s talk that Sunday and The Bulletin is working on a big expose of the Offset Alpine story. Adam Shand visits Switzerland in the Spring. The gnomes are scared. They confess all. There’s talk it will be spread over Business Sunday, Sunday and The Bulletin to amortise costs, not necessarily break news.

And that’s the real story behind this ‘sharing’; it’s not about being more competitive or controlling the news. It’s simply a way of spreading the cost of reports across several publications. Shand is paid for by The Bulletin, Sunday and Business Sunday. Ross Greenwood by Business Sunday, news and ACP. He does stories for Money magazine, The Bulletin and NineMSN’s Investor website.

Probably the most fascinating story this year appeared first on Sunday in late April. It was Ross Coulthart’s excellent look at the SAS, which was redone again for 60 Minutes on Sunday night. And it rated very well on tick tick tick. This was an old fashioned Sunday and Nine approach to a story, spreading it across the network. It rated at lot better than anything shared between the Bully, Business Sunday or Sunday.

Obviously the “hang the expense, get the story and beat the competition” philosophy is gone at Nine, except at 6.30pm where A Current Affair and Today Tonight still waggle their cheque books.

In such a competitive environment, there is no sign of spreading the story across several outlets to amortise costs but every sign that the cross-promotion between magazines such as the Women’s Weekly and ACA and No Idea and Today Tonight is done simply for promotional purposes.

There was a time in television news and current affairs when the competition wasn’t Seven or the ABC but the various arms of Nine. Those days are now history. Will it change when the new Network (read Sydney) News boss, Max Uechtritz, glides into the Willoughby car park this week? Interesting times indeed.

Peter Fray

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