It is
quite likely the Nine management might have to look at forced
redundancies to get the 85 cuts it wants in the Sydney news and current affairs
business. It’s
also becoming clear that Nine will struggle
to keep some programs going.

New News and Current
Affairs director, Garry Linnell is continuing his
consulting process with the various parts of his Sydney empire and the
word back is that much remains unanswered. Nine staff want to know whether Eddie McGuire will be returning from
Germany in time for the 21 June deadline when the call for redundancies expires. And whether he will return in
time to make a studied decision, or merely accept what he’s told by Linnell and the PBL bean
counters.

Nine
management is not only trying to cut a persistent deficit in news and current
affairs, it is also trying to bring costs down to a level comparable with the
Seven Network: which must send all those Nine Network refugees at Seven rolling around in laughter. For the
past four years Nine management of all kinds, plus the
PBL masters in Park
Street, have derided Seven’s efforts in
news and current affairs under the likes of David Leckie, Peter Meakin, Neil Mooney
and Ian Ross: all former Nine staff.

The
cuts are being driven by PBL CEO John Alexander and his mentor at Fairfax and now PBL board member, Chris
Anderson. Anderson is a former Editor in Chief of the SMH,
Managing Editor of the ABC and also once ran TVNZ, – where his most
notable effort was to lose the rights to the NZ All Blacks Rugby Union
tests to Rupert Murdoch’s Sky TV, which gave Sky the momentum to become
the only Pay TV business in the country.

He’s
obviously learned the lesson, signing off on Nine’s expensive deals to
retain the cricket and the Rugby League and the abortive $780 million
offer to keep the AFL.

Now he’s trying to drive the cost reduction at Nine through McGuire
and Garry Linnell: both of whom have no management experience in TV news
and current affairs or understanding of the economics involved. Even
with the 60 Minutes budget of around $18 million taken out Nine News and Current
Affairs is more expensive than Seven’s efforts: that comes down to four
programs: Sunday, Business Sunday, Today (which is more costly than Sunrise) and
Nightline.

Readers
wanting to understand the Chris Anderson approach to news should go and read his
Andrew Olle Memorial lecture back in 2004. Simplistic and lightweight could well describe it.

No one
at Nine has been talking about directing the money
saved into better and more effective news coverage. It’s
all been about doing more with less. The usual bean
counter mantra.

Peter Fray

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