First Don, now Jim, who will be next as Nine peruses a more youthful look?

An eagle-eyed subscriber has corrected us to for suggesting that the host of A Current Affair, Ray Martin was in his late 50s, not so the reader mailed last night:

“He turned 60 a few weeks back, I spotted it in the Herald Sun’s birthdays column.”

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That, dear readers, is bad news for Ray and a lot of other people at Nine after this week.

After Nine ‘dumped’ Jim Waley Thursday night in a particularly ham-fisted and ill-advised way, ageism is in full swing at the country’s top-rating network.

Oh dear, that means Ray’s definitely way too old, given the swing to youth at the confused Network.

But if Jim was too old in his late 50s, what do we make of the axing of Today weather girl, Sami Lukas, who was in her mid 20s, blonde and bubbly? The sort of look the Packers have been urging on Nine. She’s certainly younger and more bubbly than Mark Ferguson, Waley’s replacement.

Sixty is old in terms of the way of thinking of Kerry Packer (around 68), Nine CEO, David Gyngell (early 40s) and John Alexander, the CEO of PBL, who’s around 54!

So what about those older people on air: Peter Harvey in the Sydney newsroom, Laurie Oakes from Canberra, Jana Wendt and Helen Dalley, are their times up?

Laurie Oakes would be the last person to be flicked by Nine, if there’s any sense still left at Willoughby. He brings credibility to Nine News, and The Bulletin at ACP. Without him they would struggling.

We have a spokesman for the Nine Network to thank for the stupidity of January. The spokesman was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald Friday as saying Jim Waley was not ‘ dumped’ but could not say what his future with Nine would be.

I suppose that from the comfort of the third floor at Willoughby, being dropped from reading the high profile 6pm News from the second floor isn’t being ‘dumped’. All things are relative, I suppose.

But you would have hoped that with such a large staff of spinners, Nine would have had the story right and been on song when the calls started coming in late Thursday afternoon.

Nine says Waley will remain with the network, but seeing he’s a year or more to go on his contract, they really cannot afford to pay him out, or see him go elsewhere.

He always said he would go if Nine would pay out his contract.

So where will he be used/special projects? God’s Waiting Room where Steve Wood and David Hurley rested before having their careers re-ignited? It will be more difficult for Waley because he was an on camera star, a public face. Wood and Hurley are relatively faceless being behind the scenes producers.

What is galling is that Jim Waley has always wanted the 6pm gig. He got over the health problems at the end of 2003 and then to be “dumped” in such a cavalier and brutal way, with no thanks from Gyngell, for all the good work he’s done for Nine over the years, is close to the pits.

Gyngell was quoted in The Daily Telegraph as saying Mark Ferguson’s was “worthy” to read the 6pm News on Nine.

Not a word of thanks at all for the work done by Waley. An ungrateful organization run by a chump!

Be careful Mark, remember, Jim Waley was once thought “worthy” by Gyngel and Kerry Packer.

But it does show that when it comes to the sensitive handling of change, TV does it badly and no one does it as clumsily or as brutally as Nine.

I suppose that comes from being under the Packer microscope where any sign of sympathy or sensitivity is seen as a weakness on the part of the firing executive.

News of Nine’s plans had been slowly seeping out of Willoughby. The Daily Telegraph is rumoured to have got a ‘drop’ on it beforehand and I heard Thursday of the plan.

Sydney News boss Max Uechtritz is said to have made the decision Thursday, but with the news promos shown to 6pm staff last night without Jim Waley in them and with Mark Ferguson in his place, the decision was obviously made much earlier.

What then of Jim Waley’s face with Ray Martin on the Nine Billboard at the busy White Bay intersection in inner Sydney, just off the Anzac Bridge. Time for a quick cut, folks!

There were rumours Thursday night of other departures from Nine, but when there’s blood in the water, the rumours swell.

Certainly after sacking, or dispensing with Don Burke last year (but Burke brought much of that on himself with his attitude) Nine was signalling a desire for a youthful look.

Waley’s two years reading the 6pm News saw it influenced by Alexander, Gyngell and the former news and current affairs boss, Jim Rudder, whose dead hand and band of ‘mates’ did nothing to help the news team or the main news reader.

It was only when Seven moved to Martin Place in the heart of Sydney and produced a different look, that Nine finally got its act together and revamped the set of the 6pm News to give a cleaner, clearer Sydney backdrop and overall look.

Finally we have the great Dr Hunter S. Thompson to thank for that widely-abused quote that sums up all that’s wrong (and sometimes strangely wonderful) about the television industry.

“The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.”

If you go here the full story on the quote, the way it has been abused over the years emerges.

This applies across the industry, but nowhere more than the Nine Network.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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