Inside Business again had the best of it on Sunday morning as Terry Television rates the business journalism offered up each week on the small screen.

Sometimes you wonder why the people in charge of current affairs shows select the topics they are going to cover. Some of the choices are based on what will happen, others based on what is happening now and a third group would be what has happened in the immediate past. They try to report, explain, elucidate and keep viewers up to date.

In the end, it’s about experience and judgement of what is news, what will be news and what is going to be news. So, with that in mind how were the Sunday morning TV business shows this week?

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Easy, once again Alan Kohler on Inside Business on the ABC made the running, explaining the disgraceful payouts of $10 million to James Hardie CEO, Peter Macdonald and the chief financial officer, Peter Shafron.

It’s well worth a look to find out just why they were paid so much money and why the jJmes Hardie board and chairman Meredith Hellicar deserves censure. Her lack of openess and transparency at Friday’s news conference was ‘curious’. Indeed, it was appalling and in keeping with her performance as a James Hardie director all along.

Business Sunday gave Hardie a mention late in the program with an interview with Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews, but no attempt at analysis or elucidation.

According to Kohler’s commentary it was all about the terms of the two executives contracts and the term ‘constructive dimissal’. The big payouts (two year’s salary and two times the last year’s bonus) were triggered when both were stood aside by the Hardie board on September 28.

In reality the Hardie board knew what it was doing when it stood Macdonald and Shafron aside, and it’s been a wait for the resignation letters to trigger the contractual payments.

No sign of ANY explanation from Meredith “Sorry” Hellicar, the chairman, or the company.

Michael Pascoe didn’t mention James Hardie on Seven’s Sunday Sunrise, but he did look at the meeting of News Corp in Adelaide on Tuesday, as well as talking to the ACCC’s Graeme Samuel about something he raised in The Australian’s Media section on Thursday, that the ‘convergence’ of news and current affairs in newspapers, TV and electronic (internet) would make life hard for anyone wanting to merge or take over competitors if and when the media laws change after July next year.

Samuel went further than on Business Sunday a week ago when he first raised the ‘convergence’ question and further than in The Oz. He made it clear with Pascoe that convergence of markets for news and current affairs could very be “a major brake on cross media acquisitions”. Check out the full transcript here. Now that is news but not welcome news to PBL, Fairfax and News Ltd.

On Business Sunday Terry McCrann stayed away from Rupert and did a reasonable comment on the Australian Leisure and Hospitality takeover bunfight. He reserved his full HMV (His Master’s Voice) for The Weekend Australian with another comment on why Rupert is good for you. This is the first since Rupert rolled over on corporate governance, so given all the time that’s elapsed, its sad to see HMV’s attitude hasn’t changed at all as you can see here.

But as Michael Pascoe pointed out on Seven, the News move to the US has so far cost investors in the stock $3 billion in lost value, with more to come. That’s not even alluded to by HMV, who at times resorts to the banal and boring attacks on Fairfax jounalists, even though News Ltd hacks in the Media section have been used to attack Fairfax, in a similar fashion. No wonder HMV is a bit shakey these days if the best he can do is to ‘slag’ the opposition. Far better for him to use his brains and logic like he did in the ALH comment on Business Sunday.

That was Business Sunday’s only concession to events remotely topical this week. The Hardie mention was marginal and there was no News Corp comment. It needed a contribution from finance editor Ross Greenwood. Who must have been tired after two weeks of early mornings on Today.

Ross endeared himself to fellow hosts at the end of his first morning by saying “that’s how you do it” repeatedly till people were sick of hearing him.

Business Sunday had a feature on industrial relations and an interview with Kevin Andrews, the Federal Workplace Relations Minister. That was OK, but Inside Business had been there a week earlier. Nothing will really be newsy from now on until the Senate position becomes clear and the Government can work out its program post July 1, a long time away.

Business Sunday had a nice story from the US on the trials and tribulations of the American airline industry. But you would have though that the introduction or back announce could have least mentioned that Australia’s highly profitable airline, Qantas, had an annual meeting last week. The contrast between Qantas’ performance and many of the airlines in the US report sort of demanded some comment. No awareness!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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