Peter Overton’s future at Nine is unclear whilst Kerry Packer has made it perfectly clear he supports the current news and current affairs management team.

The surprise early departure of Jim Waley has not solved the problems in the news area at Nine for the time being. Mark Ferguson has the gig at 6 pm, but Max Uechtritz, who made the decision, with the support of David Gyngell, has to handle one sticky problem – Peter Overton at 60 Minutes.

News that Karl Sefanovic was bound for 60 Minutes before getting the Today show gig when Steve Liebmann revealed his retirement due to heart problems and tiredess (all those early rises) saw some people at Nine wonder if Peter Overton was getting footloose.

It seems he is entitled to be a little toey after the changes to the 6pm news last week in Sydney. Overton, it seems, has a clause in his contract that tied his career to the succession at Nine News in Sydney. According to Nine insiders, that clause says that if Waley goes, he, Overton, follows Waley into the 6pm slot.

Now he’s not, so what will Nine do? That’s up to Uechtritz, Gyngell and 60 Minutes boss, John Westacott.

Westacott has tried to ease the tension between Paul Barry (of Media Watch fame) and one of his targets, Richard Carleton. Carleton is off reporting while Barry is said to down on the 60 Minutes slot as a producer. There has to be a note somewhere that says , never, ever team Dickie the lunch box and Paul Barry together on a story. Although sending them to the old Yugoslavia to do a war crimes story would be fun!

Kerry Packer herogram

Meanwhile a message to the troops from Max Uechtritz has come Crikey’s way.

“Message from Network Director of News Max Uechtritz


“Before 2005 advances any further, it is timely to acknowledge the performance of so many staff in the Nine Network’s tsunami coverage.

“Put simply, Nine’s coverage across the schedule was one of the great journalistic chronicles of an event in Australian broadcast history.

“Of course our teams on the ground in Asia – reporters, camera crews, producers, fixers, medical-security support and satellite operators – deserve our deep gratitude and respect. In conditions often unimaginable, they confronted and reported the unspeakable – and did it professionally and compassionately.

“But back in Australia, in all states, the network jelled and rallied, across programs and departments, to support the field teams and meet the rush of special bulletins and programming dedicated to the unfolding disaster.

“Desk producers and their newsroom teams, editors, field and studio crews, satellite bookers, presentation and of course our presenters worked day and night – often unasked and always uncomplaining.

“The coverage has been widely acclaimed, privately and publicly, across the industry and the community.

” I am happy to pass on extracts from two particular letters sent to CEO David Gyngell.

“Mr Kerry Packer wrote:

Channel Nine’s performance over the tsunami and its activity within the community has been absolutely excellent.

“You and the people involved on a day to day basis are to be congratulated. It has once again shown how Nine can respond to a public tragedy with quality and integrity, which all involved should be proud of.

“My warmest congratulations and thanks to those who made this happen and who gave up their time during the holiday period.”

“Another missive arrived from one of Australia’s legendary newsmen, former Channel Nine and Seven news director Mike Ramsden, visiting from the United States.

“Mr Ramsden wrote:

“While deploring the tragedy itself, I want to say it has been a privilege to be visiting Australia and watching your coverage of the Asian tsunami. Nine clearly outpaced other news organizations nationally, probably even globally, as you showed the impact of this disaster to the world.

The speed with which you deployed resources and reporting teams to the worst-hit areas, the excellence of their dispatches under what must be dreadful circumstances, combined with the news coverage and specials you are still putting to air add up to professionalism at its best.

Over the years, Nine has earned a reputation for being the principal source of news for Australians in times of crisis. You have more than underlined this in recent days.

Against the background of so huge a catastrophe …you and all concerned have more than earned the professional admiration of a former newsman.’

A huge herogram from Packer and comments that make it clear the current team running Nine and Nine News has his strong support.

And not a word of appreciation about Jim Waley, from Max Uechtritz or Kerry Packer. Now that’s what I call being mean and churlish.

Peter Fray

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