A rare national win for Seven News over Nine News Monday night, despite a big loss in Melbourne.

A big win in Perth by 102,000 people clinched the national victory, but the way Seven went about winning last night in Sydney tells a lot about why it has the upper hand over the Packer-owned network at the moment in a lot of areas.

Why was this important then, apart from the rarity? Remember that Nine removed the older Jim Waley in favour of the youthful Mark Ferguson in Sydney but last night Sydney viewers saw the older Ian Ross out at the Macquarie Field riot zone for Seven, while the younger Mark Ferguson was anchoring Nine’s coverage from the comfort of the Willoughby Studios.

It was a telling difference in approach that saw Seven win by 54,000 viewers, 374,000 or so to Nine’s 320,000. Both news services covered the Macquarie Fields situation well, as they’ve been doing since Saturday, but putting Ian Ross into the field gave the perception to viewers of being more involved, less remote. As the Seven News promos say, ‘The Difference is Experience’ and it certainly seemed like that last night in Sydney.

The contrast between the studio based and younger Ferguson (last week he was helping old people) and the older Ian Ross in the field was telling. Seven also did a short live interview between Ian Ross and ‘hang them high’ NSW Premier Bob Carr but Nine seemingly missed a quick chat with the Premier.

At the end of the bulletin, another example of why Seven has the edge at the moment. Ian Ross crossed to a reporter update live, while on Nine there was Mark Ferguson throwing to the break and A Current Affair.

The ratings gave it as a win to Seven but it was more. Seven were sharper, Nine were slower. And while the ABC at 7pm had the lovely Juanita Phillips in the studio like Nine, they did live crosses and finished the bulletin with a live update. So score it two one to Seven and the ABC in thinking over Nine (I didn’t see how Ten News went about covering the story).

At 6.30pm change in contrast, pap on both Seven and Nine, but it didn’t sort of matter. Seven’s Today Tonight won the battle last night over ACA by 8,000 viewers, a closer finish for the Nine program than in recent days. In Sydney thought a much larger margin for Seven, around 50,000 or so, over ACA.

Nine’s A Current Affair styles itself now as ‘Without Fear or Favour”. Well OK Ray, go and do a story on Crown Casino and see if you can show ‘No Fear and no Favour’! ACA led with the makeover of Princess Mary of Denmark. A sweet, meaningless story in view of what has been happening at Macquarie Fields since Friday night.

ACA’scoverage of Macquarie Fields was good with a solid interview with a ‘grieving mother’. Over at Today Tonight they led with Our Cate’s Oscar, light and frothy and a million miles away from the realities of Macquarie Fields. TT did cover the events at Macquarie Fields but in a simplistic fashion.

Talk about bombastic beat ups, TT’s story had them all. At least ACA played the story straight up and down and wasn’t too alarmist.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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