It was a better effort by Business Sunday this week but the major format changes means it is still vulnerable when pitted against the ABC’s Inside Business.
Years ago Telstra, or Telecom as it was then, had a catchy advertising campaign using the Barbara Streisand tune Memories to encourage people to call friends and family more often. A worthy idea that, but like so many campaigns, it’s now resting at the base of a flagpole in some advertising graveyard.
But the approach came to mind on Sunday morning when watching Business Sunday’s report on Telstra under the departing CEO, Dr Ziggy Switkowski.
In the report by Adam Shand, which was longer than the following interview Ali Moore did with Ziggy, two old Nine Network or PBL faces appeared. Michael Pascoe, former Nine Finance Editor, removed by John Alexander and now at Seven, appeared in an interview from Business Sunday six years ago that was the first with Ziggy.
But more surprising was the appearance of Peter Yates as ‘talent’. The former PBL CEO, pushed by John Alexander from the post in June 2004, appeared as a former adviser (when at Macquarie Bank) to the Telstra CEO.
From memory it would have been only the second or third appearance on Nine by Mr Yates. Certainly there was only one, maybe two at most when he was running the Packer company up to the middle of last year. They were the highlights in a story that was too long and had not quite enough new information.
The bottom line is after so much scepticism and attacks, Telstra had a good profit and many critics were left defenceless, especially with the T3 float coming and the pot of gold that awaits advisers, brokers and the big end of town investors.
Nine Network’s Business Sunday (sorry Business Sunday with The Bulletin) was at the front of the get-Ziggy pack last year. Leading its charge was finance editor, Ross Greenwood, who was nowhere to be seen at the Telstra interviews this week with Dr Ziggy or the set-up story.
Greenwood, after breaking the good story about the silly plan to merge Sensis with Fairfax a year ago, led the charge to undermine Dr Ziggy by forecasting his imminent departure for several months.
When it came late last year it was mainly due to the pressure from board people like chairman Donald McCauchie, the businessman who could see nothing wrong with board membership at James Hardie.
Also mute or now cheering this time around are institutional investors and investment bankers and their analysts who bagged the company and quite rightly criticised its sluggishness and poor returns a year ago. Now they see a silver, or even golden lining in those clouds over the telco. Why? Well think T3 float and the millions of dollars in fees and other returns to be plundered. Their views have been shaped accordingly.
Now Dr Ziggy has been proven right (for a while at least) and can gloat that he got it right and the board and some of its external ‘advisers’, like Business Sunday with The Bulletin have to think again.
So it was Ali Moore talking to Ziggy this morning in an interview that was too short, and short on any sort of honest reappraisal of the program’s approach to the Telstra CEO last year. Which was a pity, because Ziggy copped plenty from all sides in the past couple of years.
CBA CEO, David Murray was interviewed live by Ali Moore, a welcome move to try and maintain its relevance by Business Sunday after its soft opening program the previous Sunday.
Murray made predictable comments about interest rates, seemingly with more authority that in the Reserve Bank’s half year Monetary Policy statement earlier in the week.
A curious case of banker arrogance, as Mr Gloom on interest rates suddenly became Mr Optimistic about anything to do with the rebound in the bank’s performance and share price that he doesn’t want nipped by an official interest rate rise?
There was a colour story on former rugby great John Eales that was for the blokes, but nothing on a host of other results or situations, such as Coles Myer’s John Fletcher staying on, Leighton Holding’s little accounting trick to boost earnings, Foster’s and Southcorp’s results.
On the Seven Network’s Sunday Sunrise we saw Federal Treasurer Peter Costello having a chat and interviews with David Murray and Dr Ziggy by Michael Pascoe.
Pascoe’s talk to Ziggy was more relaxed than the Ali Moore effort, with the Telstra CEO actually chuckling and smiling, after Pascoe posed a question that sort of found out Ziggy’s view of investment managers and analysts.
From both interviews, however, you got the feeling Ziggy is glad to be going, no matter what he says. The body language, especially with Pascoe, was of someone looking to a more relaxed future.
Both interviews with David Murray covered similar ground, except Pascoe pitched some of his questions in the context of the wider economy, mentioning last week’s strong labour force and housing approval figures and obtaining from Murray the news that the CBA had had a better January than it did a year ago.
Pascoe also asked Ziggy about skills shortages, wages pressure and obtained a view that while nothing much was happening, Telstra was finding it difficult to get skilled labour, a worry Pascoe nicely pulled together at the end of his segment in throwing to Friday’s appearance of Reserve Bank governor Ian MacFarlane at the semi-annual hearing of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Finance.
Business Sunday ran Terry McCrann at the wrong end of the program. His commentary was in the wrong tense and meant to be a sort of highlighter for the Ziggy and Murray interviews before they went to air, not after.
Business Sunday had to hold over the property report, the second part of the ‘where to put your money’ effort from the first program the week before so let’s hope they update for the housing approval figures and MacFarlane’s appearance on Friday.
So, having grasped the nettle of greater relevance will Business Sunday go again in the coming week and catch up with Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon or Wal King from Leighton?
Meanwhile, the ABC’s Inside Business with Alan Kohler returned for the year and looked at the Foster’s-Southcorp takeover battle and the wine industry in a neat and competent report.
Kohler talked to ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel and there was a story on small retailers doing it tough. A good mix, and Kohler should keep it up as he an opportunity to snatch market position from Business Sunday as the latter program struggles with its new identity.