The structure of the Nine Network programs Sunday and Business Sunday are to be changed once again. See how the flip flops unfolded below:

Nine’s business flip flop: it’s back to the future for Gyngell!

Crikey email – 17 November

Almost 11 months after Nine CEO, David Gyngell signed off on the creation of the Nine Network’s Business Unit, led by Ross Greenwood, the grand experiment is no more.

Word has reached us here at Crikey that Gyngell has okayed yet another re-organisation, and it’s back to the future as we return to what was in place before the January re-organisation that was pushed by Greenwood and former News and Current Affairs boss, Jim Rudder.

It seems Sunday executive producer, John Lyons, a former Sydney Morning Herald editor and who is also close to PBL CEO, John Alexander, will be Executive Producer (EP) of Business Sunday. As long as the changes are handled properly and not an excuse by Nine to remove people through retrenchment, it should help benefit Business Sunday.

The program has been in a bit of a tussle with Seven’s Sunday Sunrise, but in the past couple of months has been a consistent winner at 8am.

The numbers are no longer what they were three years ago, because the competition is tougher with Sunday Sunrise, Inside Business and the Insiders now on Sunday mornings. As well, Ten switched Meet the Press to 8.30am on Sundays, thereby adding to the competition levels.

That’s the structure that existed last year when Stephen Rice, now at 60 Minutes was EP of both programs, until being removed by Rudder in favour of Lyons.

I was supervising producer of Business Sunday. Rudder muttered about managing editor and told me I was reporting to him. Then he told me on January 19 that the Business Unit was being forced and there was no place for me. I was being retrenched.

This was done with Gyngell’s sign-off. He was deputy CEO of PBL Media and sort of in charge of Nine, but not quite because John Alexander was still around as CEO.

Since then Business Sunday has been run by Greenwood, who was eventually removed as EP and Graham Thurston, the former Nine News EP in Sydney (who was removed by Max Uechtritz) was made EP of the Business Unit.

Rudder himself was removed by Gyngell in May after realising that he had a near mutiny on his hands in the news and current affairs area, and that the ratings of National Nine News and A Current Affair, especially in Sydney, were weakening.

The Business Unit then existed until discussions started in the last few days about the future of programs next year – a normal occurrence in TV.

Now it’s back to the future, to a structure that worked well for years, without all the managementese of Greenwood, Rudder and others about cross-promotional platforms and the like.

So where will that leave Business Sunday in 2005? There’s no idea. Will the three hours from 8am to 11am be one long Sunday, with Business Sunday inside and no longer separate. Standby.

And what of new business unit recruit, Karen Tso, a hiring driven by Max Uechtritz and supported by Gyngell and John Alexander, the man who was also behind the hiring of Ross Greenwood. So is Karen Tso for Business Sunday, the network or News?

News of the changes were posted on the Nine Intranet late today and despite this childish and impossible ban, Crikey has already got it in full:


The Nine Network’s two Sunday morning current affairs programs, Sunday and Business Sunday, are to be brought together under the one umbrella.

Under the administrative re-structuring, Sunday’s Executive Producer, John Lyons, will also become Executive Producer of Business Sunday. Graham Thurston will become Managing Editor of Business Sunday.

Nine Network CEO David Gyngell said because Sunday and Business Sunday were back-to-back sister programs, it made sense to have them under the same management.

Strange isn’t that there’s no acknowledgement of the Business Unit experiment, or that this new structure is actually the old structure David Gyngell agreed had to be broken down when proposed by Rudder, with help from Ross Greenwood.

Talk about flip-flops.

Sacked and banned by Nine

By Glenn Dyer

So, I’ve finally been named by the Strewth column in The Australian. Cor Blimey, wonders never cease!

Fancy that, Kerry Packer’s Godson, a man worth millions, earning more than a million dollars a year, running a TV Network with annual profits of more than $280 million, worried, so worried by an insignificant flea like me that he causes Crikey to be banned.

“Disgruntled” was the word used by Strewth, and by Nine and its spinners. There are hardly any ‘gruntled’ people at Nine these days.

The impression is also left that I “left” Channel Nine this year. Can’t David Gyngell and the spinners bring themselves to say the word ‘sacked’, or more politely retrenched. With 11 months on a two year contract left. Paid out, as it happens.

Hasn’t Mr Gyngell got better things to do, like run a TV network that’s still the country’s best rating TV business, even though it’s looking a bit tatty and toothy in places?

What’s he doing worrying about some one like me who he stood by and watched be retrenched by the late and unlamented Jim Rudder on January 19 this year after working at Nine for more than 16 years.

And the payment of my termination money stuffed up for a month by the Nine, or rather the then centralised pay office at PBL, another project Gyngell allowed to happen because Park Street insisted on it.

It took a number of emails to PBL people to get the money Nine promised to pay me, paid a month later. Why the delay? Who knows? No one would answer calls or emails at the Pay Office in Park Street. It seems in the end the new pay system called Chris, could not make electronic transfers of money with any reliability. Just as the hundreds of employees at Nine and ACP whose salaries and other payments have gone missing this year.

Strewth, that’s a good yarn ignored by mainstream media, but reported on Crikey! This was a situation Gyngell was finally forced to tackle after becoming the full time CEO of Nine, reversing the centralised Pay Office back to Nine and staffing it with people who knew what was going on.

Much of this reported on Crikey by other contributors. A good read, and hardly the stuff though the country’s biggest media company wants in the open. Signs of administrative incompetence.

But to report any of that is to be called disgruntled by Gyngell and his heavy mob at Nine. Fancy that, a high flyer like him worried by something like Crikey.

(I even met his Dad and worked under him. That’s Bruce the Legend Gyngell!)

The business unit idea came from Rudder and the still employed Ross Greenwood, a former head of the business unit. Greenwood himself was sidelined twice in the past couple of months, once when former Sydney News EP Graham Thurston was named head of the business unit, and last week when the business unit became an unknown organisation at Nine, never to be mentioned again in polite company.

That’s the business unit that was the idea of Greenwood and Rudder and their mentor, John Alexander, the now CEO of PBL, but who had Ross Greenwood waiting in the wings when he told Peter Meakin to sack Michael Pascoe as Nine’s Finance Editor in early 2003. Alexander was still the boss of Nine and PBL Media when the business unit was dreamed up by Ross Greenwood.

All the confusion for Business Sunday’s viewers from the change of format and style, several times this year, change of people and the strange and vague management methods of Greenwood, Rudder and others. All the emotional pain and poor leadership for people at the Business Unit and elsewhere in Nine.

Rudderless at Willoughby as some in-house whit described it early this year. Jim Rudder, another Gyngell-Alexander appointment. With Gyngell overseeing it all, just as he oversaw the re-incorporation of Business Sunday back into the Sunday unit last week, without an apology or a nod to past errors.

Yes, he is Kerry Packer’s Godson, it must mean not having to apologise.

So why ban Crikey? Well, last week it was because too many people at Nine were accessing and reading Crikey at work (and the same reason was given across the Bridge at Park and Castlereagh Streets in the City). Crikey was described as a gossip site by a Nine spokesman, who we all know.

Now it’s because I was writing nasty stuff about Nine. And this from a man, the official spokesman said, who didn’t read Crikey.

Now run that past me again. How could he know what was being written about Nine if he didn’t read it Crikey? Did someone tell him what was in Crikey? Or did someone tell him to ban Crikey? Or can the streaker’s defence be invoked? That it was a good idea at the time (to ban Crikey).

Sydney TV writers say the ban is very much in the current Nine mould of aggressive response to criticism, hectoring phone calls made to writers who say anything critical. “They are such poor losers,” one said at yesterday’s Ten launch.

That insecurity pervades the whole company, with that complete self-confidence of Sam Chisholm and David Leckie now replaced with a ‘yes sir, how high sir’ culture that starts on the second floor of 54 Park Street.

As a former Nine person it still grates a little to say this but Ten is now making the running in Television in this country. It is the pacemaker with a focused business strategy and clever marketing. And better profit margins than Nine.

And that’s why I have been writing about TV because I combine some understanding of television and business, with my background at Nine at Business Sunday and before that at The Australian Financial Review.

Commercial TV is a $4 billion a year industry and up until this year there was little sign of anyone who showed any understanding of the programming and business sides of this industry. No one in the print or electronic media.

With Crikey, that has now changed.

With profits of $700 million a year and rising, this is an important industry that has thrived in secrecy, with no one really subjecting it to regular scrutiny, until now on Crikey. Perhaps it’s that scrutiny that has upset David Gyngell the spinners at Nine and Park Street.

It’s an attitude in which he is alone. Rivals Seven and Ten also let Crikey know when errors have been made, but they co-operate and cop it on the chin. In a mature, adult fashion, without resorting to childish bans.

At the Ten Network 2005 schedule launch before the Australian Idol final at the Opera House last night I was struck by the Nine-like confidence of Ten TV boss, John McAlpine and programmer, David Mott. Confidence in the product, the people and the results they know they will deliver.

Certainty of purpose, a hallmark of Nine under Sam Chisholm and David Leckie (in most years). But not latterly at Nine under the Alexander/Gyngell leadership team.

But Ten doesn’t have the other well-known Nine trait, overweening arrogance. And yet, under Kerry Packer’s Godson, Nine has plenty to be happy about this year, and worried about in 2005.

It has been eating up the enormous capital built up in the Chisholm-Leckie years with little replenishment over the past two years. Expect a flurry of new ideas from Nine, but it will still rely on a lot of the older ideas. Some, like Friends, have vanished. Will CelebrityDetox, David Gyngell’s first big new idea, be the replacement?

Joey isn’t. Ten referred to one US series that they are buying as the number one program on NBC this year (Medical Investigation). Nine would have desperately loved to have heard Joey, the spin-off from Friends, described thus.

No chance! Joey is a very moderate performer, much like the management of Nine. And of course, what about the two informal offers of my job back at Nine conveyed to me from Gyngell via an intermediary this year after Terry Television started writing.

David Gyngell has known of the Terry Television identity for months, and yet he did nothing. Why? Sorry, he didn’t read Crikey. Someone must have told him.