New interim head for ABC. “Taking a bullet for the boss” is modern management jargon for less
senior executives doing a hard job, taking blame or deflecting an
attack on their boss: its part and parcel of life in the executive suite these days. So it’s good to see such loyalty and
steadfastness rewarded at the ABC. Murray Green, the ABC’s head of
strategy and communications, has been named acting managing director of
the organisation while a search is being carried out for a new head to
replace Russell Balding who is heading for Sydney Airport, not to flee
but to run the business on behalf of the Millionaire Factory at
Macquarie Bank and Macquarie Airports. Murray
Green came to notice last November when he fronted the Senate Estimates hearing
instead of Balding, who pulled out of the trip to
Canberra at the
last minute. The ABC knew the week before that the professional
inquisitor of the ABC, Senator Santo Santoro, was laying in
wait at the Estimates, with a long list of questions. A
torrid time was promised, so Murray “took the bullet” and fronted
the Estimates hearing, and from the transcript, gave a very spirited defence of the ABC and a good account of
himself. A
baptism by fire, but then Murray has had some tough jobs in the ABC, in
radio (management Victoria) and heading up the broadcaster’s controversial
election review committee. Green has earned his stripes and he’s a contender to turn the
interim post into a full-time position. With his radio background (he
started in ABC radio in Perth back in 1992), Green has at least some
operational experience in what the ABC is supposed to do: broadcast,
transmit or communicate news, current affairs, entertainment, sport,
education, the arts and other material to Australians. Glenn Dyer

Eddie’s BBQ tour hits Sydney. Nine
CEO, Eddie McGuire has a lunchtime BBQ meet and greet at the Nine Network HQ in
Willoughby today, a repeat of the one he held in
Melbourne last
week and a bigger version of the smaller meetings he’s been having with
programs and production areas. Here’s
a report
on Eddie’s GTV appearance, where he was on more familiar ground than in
Sydney. The plea to re-invent television brought wry smiles to many
faces at Willoughby, as part of the problem for Nine has been the “not
invented here syndrome”. But at least since Eddie took control, Nine
has become more open in looking for ideas. The wall of silence (or was
it the cone of ignorance) that descended in the last half of 2005 has
been lifted. Independent producers across the country who dealt with
Nine in the past three years are being contacted by the likes of
Michael Healy (head programmer), Sandra Levi (development chief) or
Andrew Backwell (a senior production executive) asking that previously
discussed ideas could be revived. For some independents, who thought the
door had been closed during the Sam Chisholm year, this has come as a
surprise. Others would like to hear more given the costs sunk into old
ideas and not paid for by Nine. But this and the lunches in Melbourne
and Sydney (and soon Brisbane) are signs that at least Eddie knows you
have to be seen to be open and transparent. The hard work
is making ideas become programs and effectively telling the Packer
Empire at Park Street that risks have to be taken to generate ratings
before profits follow. – Glenn Dyer

Sportsworld dilemmas for Seven. Just
when the Seven Network has its foot on the figurative throats of Sunday and
Business Sunday with the extension of
Weekend Sunrise to two hours (8am to 10am) comes news that relief maybe at
hand. But
could it come from an unlikely source: Seven itself? Seems
odd, doesn’t it? But there’s chat from Jones Bay and Martin Place about what time the returning Sportsworld program should start. It’s due back shortly – April 2 is
the suggested on air date. Will it
be 10am or 9.30am, cutting half an
hour off Weekend Sunrise? When Weekend Sunrise finishes at 10am, there’s a large switch
to Sunday which has been running arts and softer segments in the second hour. If Seven drops 30 minutes, it could very well
bring that turnover forward and push Sunday to parity or back
into the lead. There’s also a question of pace, timing and
appearance for Sportsworld: the producers want it like
Weekend Sunrise with a relaxed, chatty, informal approach. That
takes time, and it is apparently felt it would be done more easily in two hours than 90 minutes. Glenn Dyer

ABC goes coy over fraud. The alleged fraud at the ABC, first
disclosed in late 2004 by Crikey, is slowly wending its way through the NSW
Courts. The Daily Telegraph and the
ABC both reported the appearance in court this week of Mark John
Williams. But the ABC’s online report wasn’t
complete. It just reported Williams appearance. The Tele‘s report on Tuesday had more detail:

operations manager in the ABC’s news division in Sydney, Mark John Williams, 50,
and Melbourne man Peter Douglas Bell, 54, were yesterday committed to stand
trial in the District Court. Williams was employed by the ABC in
May 2002 to run the budgets of several television programs, including the Midday
News, ABC Asia Pacific and the now defunct Business Breakfast program.

Police allege that for two years
from November 2002 Williams successfully submitted 74 false invoices from CFX
Pty Limited, a company of which Bell is a director and secretary. It
is claimed the allegedly false invoices, totalling
$547,789, were for services that did not exist. Williams is also accused of forging
signatures on foreign correspondents’ credit cards and fraudulently using petty
cash and Cabcharge vouchers to the tune of
$142,211. – Glenn Dyer

ACP gets heavy with newsagents: Two weeks ago several newsagents felt, first hand, what life
after Kerry could be like. These newsagents, each in the industry for not much
more than a year, had their contract with ACP
magazines cancelled primarily because they had not undertaken required
training. ACP, the Australian Newsagents
Federation, Fairfax and News Limited banded together to endorse a training
program developed by the ANF. New newsagents
who don’t complete this within six months of buying their business risk a
breach of their contract. The action by ACP
two weeks ago is the first time someone has lost their contract for not
undertaking training. No consideration was given to their actual performance.
Indeed, some are believed to have achieved dales increases and others have
completed significant shop enhancements. It seems that training is more
important than sales growth. There is unease among industry suppliers about the
ACP action with speculation that it may be
part of a plan by the company to achieve a reduction in the number of
newsagents. – An industry observer

Last night’s TV

The Winners Thursday night and Seven “Lost” the competition as the
program settled into its lesser role of being just a hit with 1.669 million
viewers at 8.30 last night. That again confirms the loss of around 300,000 or so
viewers from the opening, but with The Amazing Race (1.218 million), Today
(1.329 million), News, (1.309 million), Home and Away (1.239 million) and
Las Vegas (1.233 million), Seven was an easy winner. Nine’s best was again
Getaway (1.275 million, but an interesting loss to Las Vegas in Sydney. But,
hey, its the Emerald City, should that surprise?) ACA beat Nine News (1.121
million to 1.107 million). Both finished in the Top Ten for Nine. Ten’s best was
The Biggest Loser with 1.1 million people, followed by Medium (1.045 million)
and Law and Order, up to 1.039 million.The ABC’s best was the 7pm News with
937,000. Bomber Crew (8.30 pm) picked up a touch to 661,000, but the stories of
the veterans still beat the recreation stuff of
The Losers Losers? Let’s see. Bert Newton and his Family Feud
(438,000) almost 100,000 down on the high for the week of 535,000. There’s chat
that Nine has sent a producer in to help the outside producers rework the
program. Temptation sagged (to 899,000) after the big prize winning champion
left Wednesday night. Waking The Dead at 8.30 pm for Nine, 853,000, could apply
to the state of many Nine viewers at that time! West Wing on the ABC, settling
down to around 389,000 last night. The Footy Show (NRL), 364,000 with a solid
244,000 in Sydney but just 120,000 in Brisbane. Brisbane was its weak spot last
year. In Sydney it was the 13th most watched show, number 20 in
News & CA Seven News and Today Tonight again. It’s boring, I know.
Nine News won Brisbane but that was its only claim to fame last night. Perth and
Adelaide saw big losses, Sydney saw the audience under 300,000 (292,000) for the
second night in a row. A Current Affair was weak in Sydney but strong in
Melbourne and Brisbane (but still lost). That weakness in Sydney for ACA and the
News at 5.30pm continues to undermine Nine. Seven’s numbers are also weaker
in Sydney than elsewhere. Nine’s Melbourne news losses continue. The 7.30 Report
was watched by 719,000 people.
The Stats Seven with 33.8(33.9% a week earlier). Nine was
second with 25.0% (27.5%). Then came Ten with 23.3% (21.1%) the ABC with 12.7%
(12.1%) and SBS with 5.2% (5.4%). Inspector Rex still doing it for SBS at 7.30pm, even in repeat, 429,000 nationally, its only Top 50
Glenn Dyer’s comments

With Lost and Amazing Race, its Seven’s Thursday.
Next week will see the Games under way and Nine in full swing. The performance
of the News, ACA, Today and Nightline should benefit. but if any program on
Seven or Ten looks remotely competitive or manages to snatch a timeslot win,
watch for the stories about Nine’s poor games. A Nine producer raised a few
chuckles around the industry earlier this week when he claimed that the
withdrawal of Ian Thorpe wouldn’t have much impact on Nine’s ratings. One wit
was heard to say “Does that mean they are already expecting them to be low?”.
Nine has the NRL game tonight and on Sunday which will help Sydney, with an AFL
pre-season finals game in Melbourne. Seven has already won the week: it leads
32.5% to 26.5% for Nine.