For a man who doesn’t want to be CEO, Sam Chisholm is certainly acting like one. He’s flogging the controversy on the NRL Footy Show for all it’s worth in an effort to boost its ailing fortunes, poaching a well-credentialled but hardly earth-shattering producer from rival Seven and exploiting the Schapelle Corby case. All the sorts of moves that enabled him to rule the roost at Nine from 1975 to 1990. All things that were somehow beyond David Gyngell when he was CEO.

The contrast is telling. More colour and action from Nine in a week than in the previous four months. Take the Corby exploitation. Tonight’s special is nothing of the sort. Just a rehash of previously broadcast stories, interviews and reports. It’s not “the inside story” to quote the station promotions. It’s a round up. Nothing new will be broken, unlike the story on the Sunday program ten days ago which showed up all the other high priced fluff on 60 Minutes. And will Liz Hayes, the reporter who spoke to her last year, reveal her true thinking about Corby? Come on Lizzie, speak up. Put your reputation on the line!

Then there’s the Footy Show beat up with Rebecca Wilson meeting Nine today. Tomorrow night’s episode should played at a football ground under lights with everyone kitted up in their gear for a bit of blood and biff, such is the artificiality of the issue. If only Chisholm could do something similar for the struggling Nine News in Sydney.

Hang on, he said, let’s poach Tony Ritchie back from Seven and build him up to be the best thing since sliced bread. Only don’t let on that he’s not quite good enough to be the director of News and Current Affairs because Max Uechtritz might not want to move and John Westacott, struggling with 60 Minutes, might not be happy.

So that’s what that old stager Sam did, with an old PR friend in Prue McSween out singing the words of praise, but not quite knowing who to sing to, so long has she been out of the loop. She’s doing the job for Nine that was done by David Hurley. But she doesn’t have the knowledge of Nine people and processes so her briefings are general and more in line with what “Sambo” wants. Prue McSween was on the Kerri Anne Kennerley morning show Tuesday.

That Nine boasted of the Tony Ritchie poaching speaks volumes about the level of desperation at the Network as Seven continues to belt Nine in Sydney. Nine is still paying heavily for the ham-fisted dumping of Jim Waley in January that was the work of Uechtritz and Gyngell. Tony Ritchie is a good operator but the fact that Nine could not reveal the title he’s coming back to at Nine is also telling about Nine’s desperation.

Now watch Seven try to poach Graham Thurston, former EP of Nine News who was flicked last year by Uechtritz and is now helping run Business Sunday for John Lyons. And in a surprise Tuesday lunchtime, Hendo was sighted at Nine. The news spread around Sydney like wildfire: “Hendo is back.”

That would be real back to the future stuff. He’s closing in on 75, but when he retired at the end of 2002, was still the best newsreader around. By the way, Chisholm was walking with Henderson from the lift that takes you to the third floor at Willoughby. The pitch: just another “chat and lunch.” But he hasn’t been back at Nine for a while. Now that Mark Ferguson, what about him?