The
Nine Network’s 60 Minutes had a big year in 2005, despite the management
instability.

Its ratings are pretty good, helped by the
weakness at 7.30pm on the other Networks (especially Seven), but the
show biz approach that nowcharacterises what was once a serious current affairs show,
seems to be what viewers want to see.

But the
program’s producers are being more than a little arrogant when it screens
interviews like the one with actor, George Clooney that went to air on Sunday
night.
(http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/sixtyminutes/stories/2005_10_16/story_1528.asp)

It was
with reporter Diane Sawyer. Remember her? Name familiar? Not one of the tick
tick tick fleet (much
reduced). She’s a star on the American Network, ABC, from the program
20/20,

The
Clooney interview went to air a few weeks ago in the US. Nothing wrong with that. 60 Minutes quite often uses US
segments from 20/20 and the US versions of 60 Minutes, to bolster
its own hard-working crew.

But
that edition of 20/20 was shown on Sky News, part-owned by Nine (and News and
Seven) three
weeks ago.

So the
Nine version of 60 Minutes was having a very distant “second” go at using the Clooney interview.

60
Minutes Executive Producer, John Westacott (Nine’s
multi-million dollar producer) is on the board of Sky News and I wonder if he
knew and if he did, if he tried to stop Sky from showing that
interview?

Nothing like trying to pull
rank.

But
viewers didn’t mind all that much. 60 Minutes was still watched by 1.529 million
viewers in the five major markets on Sunday night.

That’s
about 130,000 under this year’s very solid average of 1.662 million, the best
since 2002.

But
that’s besides the point: to use the fact that viewers didn’t mind and still
watched is a form of laziness: this from a program that boasted six reporters
earlier this year, now down to four with the departures of Charles Wooley and Paul Barry.

60
Minutes Australia used to do as many
interviews as it could and used to concentrate on big news stories in its golden
era in the late 70s and 80s.

Now
it’s driven more by the occasional big story (tsunami) and medical, social and
show biz ‘flirt’ interviews.

The
flirt interviews can be appalling or interesting: an example of the latter was
Peter Overton talking to former next door neighbour,
Nicole Kidman.

Why
couldn’t have 60 Minutes arranged its own interview with George Clooney and sent
Liz Hayes or Tara Brown? Using foreign reports is cheap and mutes the ‘voice’ of
the program over-used.

60
Minutes has a multi-million dollar budget and at least 15 producers, so why
couldn’t have it been arranged?

Hopefully we will see something on 60 Minutes on the
rising death toll from the Kashmir earthquake and the change it could make in
relations between India and
Pakistan. Now there’s a story Dickie Carleton could get his teeth into.

Peter Fray

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