Sydney gossip girl Annette Sharp gets the gossip on Seven’s Sydney newsreader Ian Ross:
One ratings period to go in the ‘official’ ratings period. The month of
November, four weeks of mega promises, specials and lots and lots of
rumours as the Network’s renew, axe, sign, re-sign and generally act
noisily in public or like Trappist monks.

Seven has stolen Dicko from Ten and signed Miss Universe to a big contract. Ten has fixed up the X factor program (clone of Idol?) for next year and will reveal more in a launch to advertisers later this month at the Opera House.

Nine has yet to reveal all its plans, but from reports within the
Network there’s no shortage of rumour, speculation and supposition. Burke’s Backyard
has been killed, as widely anticipated and a new afternoon chat show
that’s been three years in the talking about stage, is another idea
floating out of the bunker. Gee, only three years to make their minds
up. Who’s got A View or can make decisions at Nine?

Nine’s behind in the news ratings in Sydney, TV writers are taking pot
shots at the network and it’s stars. Nine’s fighting back with its
publicity department trying to pull rank on some Sydney writers.

The aim, to halt the flow of slightly critical articles and to attempt to divert attention to Seven.

And Ten, which of course ignores everyone and pursues its own agenda of
winning and protecting its 16 to 39 age group share and building its
share of the wider 25 to 54 group which accounts for an estimated 80%
of all advertising spending on TV.

The ABC has axed rewind, George Negus Tonight but re-signed Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope for another season next year.

So it wasn’t a surprise as much as astonishment that known anti-Nine
(and anti-David Leckie) gossip writer, Annette Sharp seemingly had a
good scoop in the Sun Herald in Sydney yesterday.

Seven’s Sydney newsreader, Ian Ross, hired with fanfare late last year
from under the noses of Nine, had told Seven management that he would
not be staying past the end of his two years contract at the end of
next year.

But was it as good as it seemed? Sharp buried it in her two page gossip
column. Readers had to wade through a lot of uninteresting stuff before
getting to something Sydney readers might be interested in. Odd that!

But it is not quite the story. Sharp said Seven had flown in its Los
Angeles Correspondent, Mike Armor to screen test for the 6pm News by
putting him in the 10.30am news reading slot. That was last week.

And she said the present reader, Chris Bath wasn’t too pleased.

Well the story is both true and not quite the case.

Mike Armor was here for holidays, Seven wanted to see if he could read,
Chris Bath was happy to have time off. Armor read, did well and flew
out. Bath is back reading.

Seven says Ian Ross can read for as long as he wants to, and is trying
to build up a news reading back up team to have as a starting point
when or if he leaves. That is what Nine has done successfully for
years. Ian Ross is also, like Jim Waley, a bit of a obssessive
perfectionist and known to speak loudly if things behind the news are
not up to his standard.

Chris Bath and Peter Meakin, the Seven news and current affairs boss,
have had their ‘moments’, but apparently there is a bit of a truce at
the moment.

It is no surprise that this story appeared, inspired somewhere between
Willoughby and the Fairfax office at Darling Park and Annette Sharp’s

Seven has again closed the gap on Nine, making a mockery of the
purported reasons cited for Ross’s decision (that Seven had failed to
build on his good work earlier in the year).

Seven has either beaten or been level with Nine in Sydney for the past two weeks in news and in the 6.30pm battle between A Current Affair and Today Tonight.

It is a night to night, week to week thing and does depend heavily on how well the respective lead-ins Deal or No Deal for Seven and The Price is Right for Nine, are working at drawing viewers.

And, Nine’s previously fireproof Sunday evening news broadcast
nationally and in Sydney have shed viewers recently, and is now down
300,000 to 400,000 people from the winter peaks. But the audience for Idol, for example has grown, while the ABC 7pm News consistently gets around a million or so viewers.

Nine is grappling with what to do in Sydney News and in the ACA host’s
chair. Peter Overton’s filling in for Ray Martin (Ellen Fanning is on
maternity leave, but what about the regular summer host, Helen Dalley?).

Nine still wonders if it can replace Jim Waley with Mark Ferguson, but that’s considered to be too risky a move if the ACA chair changes.

Of course Peter Overton and his wife, Ten Newsreader, Jessica Rowe could always pop up on the Today Show next year, replacing Steve and Tracey.

But again that’s a move fraught with risk. Although Liebmann will apparently decide soon if he wants to back up again next year.

Karl Stephanovic, the Nine reporter from Los Angeles impressed a lot of people at Nine filling on Today (like Overton is doing on ACA). he also did well stepping into ACA at
the last minute, but is considered a bit young, given he’s in his late
20’s and the audiences for both shows skew (attract) older viewers.

If Nine was to replace Jim Waley, who has lost viewers while he’s been
reading for much of the past two years or so, they would have to pay a
substantial amount on his contract.

Waley is said to be unimpressed at the moment with the producing staff
and with the youth of some of the reporters being used on the Nine News in Sydney.

But Nine is certainly trying harder. There were stories from Beijing
and Sierra Leone shot on barely broadcast quality Digital Video cameras
or satellite phones on the Nine News on Sunday evening. One was on the Olympics, the other was on an Australian police officer’s legal troubles in Sierra Leone.

That wouldn’t have happened a year ago. But these reports were at the
cost of perfunctory coverage of another bloody day in Iraq Saturday,
which received longer and better coverage on the Sunday program’s news at 9 am.

So while Ian Ross could very well be thinking (and balloons have been
known to fly from ALL parts of the industry on behalf of the strangest
of allies), the hand of the Nine publicity department is in there

Annette Sharp is notable for writing some very bitchy things about Jim
Waley and David Leckie. She doesn’t particularly like Nine given the
way she was forced out (wrongly) in the 90s. But she also doesn’t have
much time for David Leckie.

So she sounds like the ideal person to float a story line, or to inform Seven management of a particularly development.

Meanwhile there’s suggestions from the ABC that Juanita Phillips is
close to re-signing with the national broadcaster. If that happens,
that would mean PBL CEO, John Alexander has again failed to win her
over to Nine, despite those nice chats and little gifts!