Peter Overton has resigned with Nine, which could signal more changes are on the way at Willoughby.
The Nine Network can scrap one of the two sets of promotional
advertisements for 60 Minutes and use the one with Peter Overton saying
“I’m Peter Overton” as the youthful star has re-signed with Nine, ending a stand-off that threatened to see him
march to rival Seven.

Overton had been upset that when Nine flicked Jim Waley from the 6pm news three weeks ago, without so
much as a public thank you, he was overlooked and Mark Ferguson was put into
the chair at Willoughby.

Overton had had a clause in his
existing contract that said he was the successor in the 6pm slot should Jim Waley leave. Waley was ‘departed’
by Nine management, but no gig for Overton.

He was contacted and talked to Seven
but has just re-signed with Nine, without the successor clause in it, a move
that would have cost the Network more money.

Overton will be on 60 Minutes this
year but I wonder if he will stay there. Fragrant whisperers from the
third Floor at Nine suggest a coup may by underway for the Today Show.

I know young Karl Stefanovic starts in the chair next to Tracy Grimshaw in the new set next week at Willoughby,
but will he be there in a year’s time? And will she?

Older hands at Nine (not Gyngell or news boss, Max Uechtritz)
remember another occasion at Nine, when Nine secretly negotiated with Steve Liebman in 1989.

Without any promotion and magazine
work, Michael Pascoe and then Terry Willesee filled
in after George Negus departed the chair at Today at the start of the year. Liebmann re-appeared at
the start of 1990 in Nine colours after finishing up
at Ten.

The older heads wonder if the same situation is being set up by Nine.

There’s been little in the way on on screen or magazine promotion
of young Karl. It seems he will be dropped in almost as an unknown (he has been reporting on camera).

Some say the coup involves
Peter Overton’s wife, the attractive Ten Network newsreader, Jessica Rowe.

It is not known how long she has on
her contract with Ten but some Nine folk suggest that
it could be up at the end of this year and they wouldn’t be surprised if the
husband and wife duo were dropped into Today at the start of 2006. That would mean Nine
has basically given the morning slot to Seven’s Sunrise
for this year.

Elsewhere at Nine more changes are
being mooted as CEO David Gyngell continues his renovation of the on air staff.

After
Crikey
Monday revealed changes to the Today show news reading staff, with
Gyngell’s wife, Leila McKinnon elbowing aside Sharyn Ghidella to win
the 7am
to 9am news reading spot, questions are being asked about other
changes. (The story behind Sharyn Ghidella’s re-signing does
no one at Nine any credit!)

Ghidella will share the 6am to 7am with
former Nine staff and 2GB presenter, Chris Smith.

Let’s hope Chris doesn’t have any of
the problems with ‘odd’ callers that he had back in 2003 on 2GB, as the ABC’s
Media Watch highlighted – here.

Smith’s selection solves a problem
for Nine that existed after sports reporter Brendon Julian, originally slated for the co-host role, was
moved onto another gig.

Rumours are gathering at Nine
that this change will be big and that it will be in the news room in Sydney.

It’s being suggested that the news
sports department is heading for the biggest shake-up and one that will upset
many people at Nine.

It seems David Gyngell and Sydney News boss, Max Uechtritz
have decided to shift Brendon Julian into the sports
reading spot, perhaps to share with Ken Sutcliffe initially.

And it is also suggested that at
least two other, long serving sports reporters are being eyed for replacement.

The position of recent recruit Danny
Weidler, a Gyngell-Uechtritz
appointment is not considered under threat in the latest moves, despite
his lack of television experience.

The older, more experienced
reporters are under pressure.

Third floor sources at Nine say Julian, a former test and one day cricketer,
and more recently presenter with Getaway, is in line to get the 6 pm News
sports gig.

It may be sharing with Sutcliffe,
who would get the weekend gig, with Julian doing Monday to Friday.

That would balance up the now
apparent huge age difference between young Mark Ferguson and the 50s-plus
Sutcliffe.

It wasn’t there when Jim Waley and Sutcliffe were together and some wags are now
calling it Father and Son. Both are in their mid to late 30s.

Ferguson
needs some help. Nine News in Sydney
hasn’t burst free since Waley was flicked and
there’s been no noticeable move up in the ratings. In fact the jury is still
out and Seven News, with the much older Ian Ross presenting, has been giving Nine a run for its money.

Julian has been fronting
cricket broadcasts on Foxtel from time to time,
especially the series in India
late last year. He’s is a good performer but needs to be looser on screen.
However any move to replace Sutcliffe totally will not go down well at Nine.

He is another, like Waley, to have given Nine long and
loyal service in Sydney.

He achieved some fame in the late
eighties when he was teamed with Graham Kennedy in the last night news/comedy
program, Coast to Coast.

Kennedy took to Sutcliffe, praising
his abilities and timing and essential good nature and nick-named him “Two
Dogs” a tag that has stuck to Sutcliffe among Nine oldies to this day.

Hopefully if there is any change, it
will be done in a much more sensitive fashion than the way Gidelkla
has been downgraded and Waley flicked.

But that is something Uechtritz or Gyngell have so far
struggled to understand at Nine.

Meanwhile there shouldn’t be too
many gloats over at rival Seven News.

Even though Seven
soundly beat Nine Monday night because of people tuning in for the Lleyton-Bec chat, Seven’s new backdrop to Ian Ross, does
have a sort of familiar look.

Seven obviously believes imitation
is the sincerest form of flattery, especially in Sydney.

Why else would Seven
change its months-old studio shot on the 6pm News for a skyline shot of the
city that’s sort of like the one used on the Nine news in Sydney?

Nine has a shot from Kirribilli back over the Harbour,
Seven has a shot of the Sydney skyline from the west to put behind
Ian Ross. Both looked stunning on what was a
fabulous evening in Sydney last night.

>

It seems that the ground shot out
into Martin Place was too intimate with too much
movement and action behind him. It might be okay for Sunrise, but not for the 6 pm News.

Peter Fray

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