Just
when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Nine Network, it has. While CEO
Eddie McGuire was conducting a big meet and greet in Sydney
on Friday, Nine’s Director of Development, Sandra Levy, was
walking because of a cut in the amount of money she could spend on developing
new ideas. It was
the latest in a number of cuts in programming and development budgets that calls
into question just how much power Eddie McGuire has at Nine.


Eddie’s chat to the troops and Levy’s resignation came at the end of a
week where Levy and others
from Nine had asked independent producers to look at ideas submitted to Nine over the past
couple of years, and pitch them again. Nine’s poor start to the year
and shortage of product made it imperative that the independents be
approached for new program ideas.

The
expensive Clever hasn’t done well, recovering last night to just over the
million viewer mark, while Magda’s Funny Bits has been
buried against the first hour of Dancing With The Stars at 7.30pm on Tuesday. The
only other fruits of Levy’s time at Nine was Hullo-Goodbye, an eight part
series hosted by Rebecca Harris and shot at airports where departing and
arriving passengers are quizzed in a fashion used by Andrew Urban on SBS years
ago.

Levy’s
development budget had been set at around a million dollars, not much (she was
paid a reported half million a year) but enough to
use as a carrot. However, last Thursday, in the latest round of cost cuts going on at Nine, she was told
by Nine’s chief financial officer, Brent Cubis that
the million was gone and the new figure would be around
$100,000. A
laughable amount and a sign that Cubis has no idea of
TV costs.

There’s no word what the Network’s chief operating officer Ian Audsley
thought of the cut; he at least has TV production experience and knows
the process a lot better than Cubis. The discussion with Cubis
apparently ended with Levy deciding to quit, and walking out.
Negotiations on Friday managed to hold her to a “consultant’s role”
reporting to Michael Healy.

The
independent sector now knows that Nine will not pay
much for developing programs, if at all. Many
would rather concentrate on Seven, Ten, SBS, Foxtel or
the ABC than deal with Nine at the
moment. Even so, you have to wonder if the recent budget cut was really just an attempt to get rid of the expensive
Levy who had already tried to quit a couple of times in her six months at
Nine.

Peter Fray

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