Sam Chisholm is starting to resemble the
unlamented Jonathon Shier, who set about shaking up the ABC with such
little effect a few years ago. Just like Shier, Chisholm has thrown a
few bombs, sacked 60 people, made a lot of noise. But as yet hasn’t
shown any inclination to promote a future strategy except Back To The
Future.

Given two chances today in a spinning contest with interviews in the friendly Financial Review (subscription only), and slightly less accommodating Media section in The Australian, all we got were a few hints, nudges and winks and a collection of mindless platitudes.

Mark Day in The Australian
at least suggested that Sambo’s clean-up at Nine was set in train a few
years ago by John Alexander. Chisholm’s reply to this was that he and
Alexander were in “violent agreement.” The fact remains that Nine
became “overly bureaucratic” – to use Sam’s phrase in the AFR – because of policies introduced by John Alexander as head of PBL Media, and continued by David Gyngell.

Chisholm
emphatically stated in both interviews that Nine isn’t for sale, though
you could be forgiven for wondering about that after today’s AFR report about the sale of another long-held Packer asset, the Perisher Blue ski resort.

It’s
also worth noting that PBL executive chairmanJames Packer doesn’t get a
mention in either interview. You’d think Chisholm would have the nous
to keep up the pretence that the company chairman is still involved.

These
were “spinning” interviews designed to shore up Nine and Sambo. There
were few hints about the immediate future, except that the network
isn’t for sale and a CEO could be in place by Christmas. If Chisholm
were to die tomorrow (and remember he has had a double lung transplant
and he’s 65) Nine would be rudderless, with no strategy in place for
the new leadership to follow.

Peter Fray

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