Details about the purge of more than 30 staff and executives at the Nine Network yesterday are still difficult to work out – and there are suggestions the axe will move to Brisbane today in sackings that will turn Nine’s Brisbane operation into a newsroom and sales department.

But two pretty miserable examples have emerged from yesterday’s bloodbath – 20-year veteran and Nine production boss in Sydney, Steve Turner, was flicked. So was GTV 9 identity Russ Sefton, who was just short of 50 years with the station, having started at the network with the launch of TV in Australia.

Today we’ll learn what the future holds for Sydney news and current affairs boss, Max Uechtritz, who has two years to go on his $600,000-a-year package. According to Nine sources, Uechtritz didn’t depart last night.

Chisholm has made it clear that he’s removing anyone whose job didn’t add value to the network. When Kerry Packer sacked David Leckie in 2002, Nine’s costs were under control, revenue growth was slow, but the network’s cost structure wasn’t a problem.

Then Packer named John Alexander as head of PBL Media with David Gyngell as his deputy, overseeing Nine. The pair proceeded to add extra staff and management layers, adding a marketing group set-up, expanding the programming area along with PR and promotions, introducing business managers and expensive software and reporting structures.

The great ad boom of the past 18 months (to the end of 2004) allowed these extra costs to be buried amid double digit revenue gains. But the rise of Seven this year coincided with a sharp fall in Nine’s revenue growth.

That’s why Sam Chisolm was put back in charge at Nine, and that’s why it looks like a battlefield today.

Peter Fray

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