Terry Television takes looks at another Sunday morning coverage of business affairs:
In total a lot of segments, but how much depth and meat was there in the Sunday morning Business shows?

Well, it varied. The common items were interviews with Lion
Nathan CEO, Gordon Cairns on both Nine’s Business Sunday and Seven’s
Sunday Sunrise.

Business Sunday and the ABC’s Inside Business had coverage of
Mitsubishi with interviews with Tom Phillips, the local Mitsubishi head
or Federal Industry Minister Ian Mcfarlane. Business Sunday also
examined a small company called Boom Logistics, while Terry McCrann and
Alan Fels chatted, Commonwealth Bank CEO, David Murray talked and a
look was taken at Jetstar and the Virgin Blue result.

A lot of words, but not very much new in terms of insights.

Seven only had the Cairns interview and comparing the two efforts, the
Business Sunday chat with the Lion Nathan boss was more illuminating.

David Koch was filling in for a holidaying Michael Pascoe and looked
like a fill-in. On her effort the previous week, his chief of staff at
Sky News, Kylie Merritt would have been done a better job. It was a
case of “We have to fill a segment, let’s have a business interview,
quickly”. It was too blokey and not enough business content.

Dave’s more TV star now rather than humble finance journalist!

It wasn’t very interesting. On Nine Cairns was more forthcoming about
mistakes. He was forced to admit that because of the $34 million loss
on the hotels deal in Victoria, he would not be paid a bonus this year,
his last. That was a board decision he said.

He was also more forthcoming on what might happen with China. Something
possibly within 12 months and that discussions were happening,
including with Heineken, its new joint venture partner in Australia.

Elsewhere on Nine, David Murray was defensive and circumspect about the
stream of senior executives leaving the bank. Did Ali Moore read
Crikey’s story, Which bank’s spin?
Dave must have known about it because he defended well, and made a
couple of good points. But Moore did correct one of his answers that
seemed to imply that he though the turnover level in Australian CEO’s
was too low. Murray meant to say the turnover was too high and that
‘longevity’ of the CEO benefited the company, according to research
from America. And being CEO of the CBA for 11 years and rising, he
would have said that, wouldn’t he?

True, David, true. But it’s a fine line. Murray said that when he
didn’t have the energy for the job then it would be time to go. He did
say that there were a number of internal and external candidates.

The revamp of the banks’ process in its retail banking business was
ahead of schedule, and it was all okay. But Crikey would have liked
another question or two slipped in about the underperforming Colonial
First State. How the funds management arm has been heavily promoting
the 452 Capital business from Peter Morgan’s 452 Capital, including a
geared investment package.

And that brings up the point from watching Sunday’s business shows.
Seven Sunrise has perfunctory coverage when Pascoe isn’t there. At
least his commentaries add value. Business Sunday has lost of coverage,
with varying depth.

The Ross Greenwood commentary on Fairfax this week was no more than a
slimmed down version of an article in the Bulletin magazine.

Something on the Lend Lease GPT play would have been more relevant, but required a little more work. Look to throw forward!

The effort on Jetstar and Virgin Blue was okay, but it’s a rather
sterile argument now. The proof will be a year or so out when results
start flowing for Qantas and the new airline. Certainly the fact
that all three airlines will be flying this week with a fuel surcharge
added to their fares will be confirmation that the market isn’t
competitive and more resembles a shadow play. Jetstar must be the only
start up airline in the so-called value space to have imposed a
surcharge before its first flight had taken off. It forwent a price
difference with Virgin and Qantas and remains strongly under the
influence of the Big Red Roo and its CEO, Geoff Dixon. Talk about
limiting Jetstar’s ability to compete. But no mention of these points
in the Greenwood piece.

Certainly a story the programs should be focussing on was whether Geoff Dixon’s contract will be extended past this year.

On the ABC’s Inside Business there was a reasonable interview with Tom
Phillips of Mitsubishi Australia. Like Business Sunday the interview
was on the pace, with a more reasonable starting point. How could
Mitsubishi Australia do so badly while the local car market has enjoyed
more than two years of boom?

Now the market is cooling with two months of lower sales, which will
make Mitsubishi’s task harder. That would have been a nice question to
put to him by anyone, especially with Ford reviving, Holden doing well
and Toyota ready to spend its way out of trouble.

Inside Business also had a story on the Biota fight with Smith Kline
about its orphan flu drug Relenza. And an interview with the Essendon
AFL Football club’s CEO. So?

With Pascoe away and Ross Greenwood rewriting his Bulletin script, Alan
Kohler had the chance to stand out in the commentary stakes. So did he?
Yes, taking a stick to Mitsubishi’s local and Japanese headquarters’
attitude to Australia and remaining in business. He pointed out the
company’s market share had fallen this year and had halved in the past
seven years. That’s a local problem. It’s also one taxpayers shouldn’t
really have to pay for.

While sourcing this to the stories about problems in Japan and worries
about whether Mitsubishi was viable in the long term, Kohler could have
also mentioned quality problems in the US and Japan that cost sales,
money and prestige, a sexual harassment suit in the US, and a marketing
error in the US that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, lost
sales and damaged its reputation.

That was a management mistake, which saw ultra cheap finance offered to
new car buyers in the wake of September 11. Unfortunately it was so
cheap, no one had any incentive to pay for the cars, documentation was
poor, legal costs soared while sales slid.

That was probably the final straw for Mitsubishi and its incompetent major shareholder, Daimler Chrysler.

That is why the slimming action was forced on the company this week.
Local factors certainly played a part but incompetence at head office,
in Germany and in the US were more important factors. It is the perils
of being a small arm of a multi-national company.

Peter Fray

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