Well,
call me cynical, but the Footy Show caper in Beaconsfield worked a treat last night: the
miners were exposed to the Australian public. It was
a bit of a tease and they showed more dignity than the rest of the event in delivering
their thanks and words of appreciation; and they stuck it to Eddie McGuire by
challenging him to “show how big the chequebook is and we’ll talk”.

The two
Footy Shows (ARL and NRL) topped the most watched list last night with 1.570
million people including 705,000 in Melbourne. Nine
won the night off the back of that audience and good
performances earlier in the night.

It was a classic “win-win” situation for Nine and Eddie: Nine
gets the viewers and spends a bit of money to show what good folk they are,
Beaconsfield gets some money and the
miners are gently seduced across to Nine and its pot of gold.

The NRL
Footy Show droned on to 11.30pm: it was boring in places when it switched back
to the regular show in Sydney. In contrast the AFL version was slick, well produced and crisp: a sort of Eddie McGuire alter
ego.

That it
rated its socks off in Melbourne but fell sort of flat in Sydney (it added
around 120,000 to the Footy Show audiences this year in Sydney, compared to around
350,000 or so in Melbourne) reflected two things: the proximity and closer links
between Melbourne and Tasmania (AFL driven in particular) and the appeal Eddie
McGuire has in Melbourne as a TV personality. It’s still
huge!

All
contributions were gratefully accepted, but it was a good example of the way in
which the Packer Empire, and the master salesman, Eddie the CEO, can assemble a
group of in-house and external business partners or mates to contribute to a
cause in which the struggling Nine Network is trying to get an advantage over
rival Seven.

For
instance Wizard, in which PBL used to own a stake (and there are still
close personal links with executive chairman, Mark Bouris); Ticketek
(another part of PBL); PBL’s auditors, Ernst and Young; Seek, 25%
owned by PBL; Foxtel, 25% owned by PBL; WIN, Nine’s regional affiliate
in Tasmania; Gilbert and Tobin, PBL’s legal advisers and
carsales.com.au, a PBL controlled website.

That was what last night was all about: while helping these two miners and the
Knight family and the town, it was also about trying to show that Nine had these
blokes all but sewn up, and if they had any doubts, giving them a glimpse of the
sort of financial muscle that could be harnessed in a short time and delivered
to Beaconsfield and the miners.

An
exercise in mainland power, Packer style, delivered slickly and with all the
sincerity such a beanfest could
allow. And the
miners again showed a bit more savvy and dignity by putting it on Eddie to give
an assurance that the family of Larry Knight would be looked
after.

Eddie
didn’t reply directly, but nicely pointed out that the trust fund containing all
the donations would be administered by the AWU and they would make sure Larry
Knight’s family were fixed up. That
nicely divorces the Knight family from any deal Nine
might do directly with Martin and Russell.

I’d
score it a win for Nine in the ratings, but a win also for the two miners in the
battle to get their signatures. They
are not going to be easy marks for anyone. Now
it’s on to the Seven Network’s special edition of Sunrise next Wednesday morning.