What election campaign? The bosses at the The Mercury in
Hobart are so unexcited by the March 18 state election that they have
decamped. Editor Garry Bailey went on holiday for a fortnight mid week
– to the shock, if not anger, of journos on the floor – leaving
assistant editor Keith Tremayne in charge. Chief of staff Martine Haley
went on leave shortly before the election was called and hasn’t
returned. While Tremayne is an experienced operator, he is in a holding
position and Haley’s post has been filled by a fairly junior reporter,
to whom chief reporter Sue Neales is answerable. Neales is an
accomplished performer, but she has been living in Hobart for less than
a year and this is her first state election. Crikey understands
the leadership team will be back at the helm only three days before the
election and sought confirmation from Tremayne this morning. But he was
tied up in a company management meeting. – Margaretta Pos (who worked at The Mercury until a month ago)

It’s not only the London Times that’s cutting back on newspaper for its journos. Executive editor of The Australian
Deborah Jones has just sent around an email telling staff of plans to
reassess the number of papers on the newsroom floor to make costs a bit
more manageable. “I will set up a few more spike areas so people can
have access to the main papers,” she writes. “Please don’t remove
papers from these, as they are for everyone. A great deal of material
is now available online which should be helpful. However, if anyone
feels their work is compromised by the removal of any publication
please let me know and we can take a look at the situation. My first
cut of the papers is pretty aggressive and we might have to restore
some, but I’d be grateful if staff could see how usage settles down.”

West Wing‘s audience bombs. Perhaps
it’s the realisation that life is stranger than TV
fiction, but whatever the
reason, West Wing – which returned at 9.30pm last night – took a big hit last
night. It
averaged just 393,000, compared to 501,000 a week earlier. No Winter Olympics, last night with Seven debuting the first ep
of the new series of The Amazing Race, which averaged 1.286 million
people from 9.30pm. Another
factor could have been Presidential overkill after a lot of viewers watched and
liked Seven’s White House soap Commander in Chief on Monday
night. Not
helping West Wing was the sharp fall in the lead in program, Bomber Crew, which was watched by an average 598,000 compared to 667,000 for its debut last week. Bomber
is worthy but dull compared to the Spitfire program from the same producers
last year. The best parts remain the memories of the bomber crews, which, like
those of the Spitfire pilots, make the rest of the program a bit lame. And
that is probably one reason why West Wing lost audience last night – while the
competition was stronger, the program itself remains dated, slow moving and too
worthy. Like
Bomber Crew, the reality is always more interesting than the fiction – especially in
politics. Glenn Dyer

Toyota opts out of Nine’s AFL coverage. According to The Age,
Toyota has decided not to sponsor Nine’s Friday night or Sunday
afternoon football coverage in 2006. Normally decisions like that are
run of the mill, but is Toyota, which for years has been one of Nine’s
major advertisers, sending another message? For the best part of 20
years, former CEO of Toyota Australia Bob Johnstone, former Sales Boss
Bob Miller and current Executive President John Conomos, have all
been close to the Nine Network, fostering links between dealers, the
company and the network. Toyota aligned itself closely to Nine in its
drive to be the leading car company in the country and with links like
this the Toyota decision wasn’t taken lightly, especially as it will
continue to support the Ten Network coverage of the AFL. So is Toyota
saying that Nine is no longer “The One” and can’t justify its high
rates? Don’t think so, its more a prudent realignment of ad dollars by
Toyota ahead of the AFL contract change at the end of this year when
Seven will take Nine’s place. Holden is tipped to replace Toyota (it is
a big supporter of NRL broadcasts in NSW and Queensland on Nine) on
Nine’s AFL coverage this year. – Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV

The Winners Seven again last night with the five top programs – for the third night this week. Lost was first
with 1.647 million, followed by Seven News (1.453 million), Today Tonight (1.438 million), Home and Away (1.309 million) and The Amazing Race (1.286 million). Nine’s best was the old stager, Getaway (1.286 million). Ten’s best was Medium with 1.070
million and The Biggest Loser with 1.018
The Losers Bert’s Family Feud, with 438,000, was down more than 50,000 on the previous night, but up slightly from a
week earlier. Still hanging on. Temptation, 918,000, was OK, but not a shadow of its
2005 performance, especially early on. Home and Away and The Biggest Loser are
still trashing it, but Temptation did beat the ABC News at 7pm by 7,000
News & CA Seven News and Today Tonight again won well because of
good east coast performances (Nine News did win Melbourne). Perth was
again a disaster area for Nine. The ABC News averaged 911,000 but there was a noticeable flight from The 7.30 Report which averaged 733,000, perhaps
viewers are over celebrating John Howard’s decade in office. Nine News and ACA
in Sydney saw their audiences slump under the 300,000 mark, which is not strong.
The Stats Seven with 33.9%, then Nine with 27.5%%, Ten with 21.1%
the ABC with 12.1% and SBS with 5.4%. Seven had a clean
Glenn Dyer’s comments
at around 1.65 million seems to have steadied at a lower level
this year. It’s around 300,000 or so viewers down on audience levels
for most of last year. No longer a mega hit, merely a hit. Desperate
and Dancing With The Stars are the mega hits of 2006 again.
Seven will win the week, making it victorious in the first three weeks
of survey. That recalls the solid start by Seven in 2001 off
the back of the 2000 Olympics. Nine ended up winning the year but
Seven’s gains helped cost its current boss, David Leckie, his job
running Nine. Nothing like that will happen this year but Nine is still
a good chance to recover on the back of the AFL and NRL in
winter. But has it the firepower to take the fight up to Seven after
Lost, Desperate Housewives etc disappear later in the year? That’s what
Nine did last year and won, but with a decline in share. Seven’s share
is higher this year but there’s a long way to go. Profits not ratings
is the mantra at Nine, so a problem looms. How to get new programs that
rate their socks off cheaply. Seven and Nine could share tonight and
tomorrow: the AFL pre-season is at the quarter finals and those southern states like their footy!