It
looks like being one of the tackiest programs the Nine Network has put to air
for years. Next Thursday it will air a special edition of This is Your
Life
devoted solely to celebrating the 85th birthday of
Qantas, with that old stager Mike Munro hosting and John Travolta starring.

How’s
that for a coup – all that unpaid advertising for
Qantas. More
than 40 minutes of prime time on a Thursday night (admittedly not as many people
watching then as on a Sunday or Monday evening, even out of official
ratings).

Nine
should hang its head in shame. Compared to Fairfax and Westpac, Qantas is a stripling.
Fairfax is over
150 years old, likewise Westpac and I don’t recall PBL
or Nine doing a special on these long lived Australian
corporates.

So why this program? Well look at
the links between PBL and Qantas which are very close:

  • James
    Packer is a director of Qantas and has been for more than a year.
  • ACP Magazines
    produces the in-flight magazines for Qantas, Australian Airlines and Jetstar through its custom magazine publishing
    business.
  • PBL and
    ACP CEO, John Alexander and Geoff Dixon, the Qantas CEO, are close in a business
    sense and have been for a while as the publishing links have been
    developed.
  • And
    Nine News produces in flight news every day for Qantas domestic and
    international flights.

In fact the whole thing
smacks of one big related party transaction that should be disclosed in both the
Qantas and PBL annual reports next year. But it won’t.

On the weekend, Business Sunday featured an interview with Qantas chair, Margaret Jackson,
to mark the airline’s 85th anniversary. Good news point, but the
best time for those sorts of interviews are around results or annual meetings
and there was Jacko rabbiting on about the terrible cap on foreign investment in
Qantas.

No other program thought it important to give Qantas a free kick to
celebrate its 85th birthday. This is all part of the Nine Network and
PBL push to drive more revenue
from the Nine programs by getting sponsors and big advertisers more
“embedded” in the programs through product placement, budget support
etc.

Now
they are giving away a prime time hour to a major advertiser and corporate mate.
That’s
crook and should be looked at by the toothless media watchdogs in Canberra.