Nine lets a unique arts producer go. She was one of the last remaining people at Nine who could be regarded as a
producer of quality television. Catherine Hunter, a long-time field producer on
Sunday, has, according to The Oz,
put her hand up for an exit package in the latest round of redundancies at the
Packer Pleasure Palace. While she was capable of tackling any yarn, Hunter
developed a reputation, almost unique in commercial television, as a producer of
compelling and beautifully packaged arts stories. Hunter was held in very high
regard by arts producers at the ABC, who saw her as the only serious competition
Aunty had in arts television. And in recent times Hunter has pretty much had the
field to herself, given the laughable quality of what now passes for arts
coverage on ABC TV. It says everything about the prevailing attitude at Nine that someone of
Hunter’s calibre is allowed to walk while management is reported to have refused
to accept the resignation of ACA‘s
foot-in-the-door man Martin King. King’s work represents tabloid
television at its trashiest. Hunter’s work was proof that intelligent
journalism was still possible on a commercial network, albeit tucked
away in the sleepy zone of Sunday morning. Where to for Hunter now?
Believe me, Catherine, the ABC is not an option, at least not if you
want to make arts television of any substance. – Arts correspondent Stephen Feneley

Nine’s cost cutting will cost them. One of
the oddities of the Nine Network’s struggles to save money in the past couple of
years has been the way it has treated the period 6am to 7am, or as it is to a
shrinking group of viewers, the Early Today Show Monday to
Friday. That
oddity continues in the present thinking behind the current round of job
losses. It can
be summarised in two words: Qantas
News! Nine
has the lucrative contract to produce the in-flight local and international news
each day for Qantas (none on Sunday). Times
were when one Qantas News was produced around 5am or so and that then became
the basis for half hour of news from 6.30am as a lead-in to the Today
Show. Nine
was running half-hour cut down versions of the ITN news from Britain ahead of
it at 6am: it was cheap as Qantas was effectively paying for the production of
the 6.30am News. Then
Seven’s Sunrise
started getting its skates on the extending itself by injecting more and more
news before 7am so that it started at 6am. Silly
Nine reacted by dropping the half hour of news and going to an hour, still using
some Qantas material, but employing more people and resources, and increasing
the cost base of the entire Early News and then Today Show. So it
came as no surprise that the Early News on Today was listed in the now infamous
Nine-generated list of programs and positions to be made redundant in the
current round of sackings. There
were around six positions listed as being chopped from the Early Today news, but
only five people were actually working. They
also were responsible for the Qantas early news. I wonder if Ian Audsley, his boss, Eddie McGuire and his new News boss, Garry
Linnell, understood the productivity of those people,
and the money involved in Qantas news programs. Did it
take a Qantas director in one James Packer to remind him, or did that cost cut
go through to the keeper because it wasn’t run past him? Would he or his CEO,
John Alexander, have known the importance to Qantas of the staff on the Early
Today Show
News? Nine
would be silly to cut it: just get rid of the cast of thousands and go back to a
straight half hour news broadcast using the Qantas material as the base. It’s
cheap as chips and very cost effective, and saves jobs, but that’s not the aim of this
round of redundancies at Nine. – Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The winners:
Wednesday and it was Ten’s night with House the most
watched program with 1.619 million, from Seven’s duo of Today Tonight (1.569
million) and Seven News (1.519 million). Ten’s NCIS won the 9.30 slot easily
with 1.498 million Ten’s Big Brother (Intruders) stunt show averaged 1.392
million and did the job. (Nine was hurt by only running McLeod’s Daughters in
Sydney and Brisbane: it averaged 683,000. It was catch up to keep the episodes
in sequence across the country. This week’s episode was shown in Melbourne,
Adelaide and Perth when the State of Origin Rugby League game was on last week.
It’s the downside of not networking the League. Nine can’t complain.) Home and
averaged 1.367 million for Seven in sixth spot; Nine News was seventh with 1.332
million, Temptation was next with 1.232 million and then A Current Affair with
1.227 million. Seven’s Prison Break was next with 1.223 million, Nine’s Without
a Trace
was 11th with 1.193 million at 8.30pm: quite a poor figure. In 12th
spot was Beyond Tomorrow for Seven with 1.185 million for its final episode. The
regular 7pm Big Brother averaged 1.113 million and Deal or No Deal was 14th
with 1.040 million.

The losers: Losers? Fourteen programs with a million or more viewers
so not much in the way of losers. Our old friend Bert’s Family Feud collected
680,000 souls, but Deal or No Deal was above a million for the third night in a
row and a clear winner in the nightly battle between the two. Nine’s Comedy Inc
at 9.30pm bombed with 771,000. It did beat Seven’s returning 24 (747,000) but
both were easily polished off by Ten’s NCIS.

News and CA:
Seven News
won nationally and in every market. Today
won nationally and in every market.The 7pm ABC News averaged a
solid 976,000 and The 7.30 Report, 780,000. Ten News at Five averaged 885,000.
Today v Sunrise (see comments below).

The stats: It was Wednesday, so Ten’s turn to win on what has been
its best night of the year so far. Ten scored a 28.8% share (17.8% a week ago
when Nine won with the Rugby League State of Origin game) from Seven with 26.8%
(21.8%) and Nine third with 24.7% (39.0%). The ABC was next with 13.7% (13.5%) and SBS had a 6.0% share (7.8%). Ten had a
clean sweep across all markets and Seven was second in most and Nine

Glenn Dyer’s comments:
Nine’s Today Show is dying in both the early and
regular editions: figures for Wednesday morning were the lowest for weeks as
viewers abandon the program: the Early Today Show
audience slumped to average just 79,000 across the hour, down around 20,000 on
the previous couple of days and continuing a trend established last week when it
slid under the 100,000 mark. By contrast, Seven’s
Sunrise remains fairly strong: its audience dipped under 200,000 for the first
time in about a week to average 194,000. (Perhaps it was the fact that England
were playing Sweden in the soccer on SBS? It averaged 164,000 viewers).
But then how do you explain the drop in the
audience for the regular Today Show from 7am to 9am: it fell to 187,000 people
while Sunrise’s audience averaged 462,000, about in line with what it has been
averaging in recent weeks (excepting when Nine showed golf and the audience
leapt above half a million). Regular Today added
just 108,000 viewers from the 6am program, regular Sunrise added 268,000, or
more than Today‘s average audience. There are
suggestions from Nine Network that decisions will be made by the end of the week
on the redundancies and the shape and types of new programs that will continue:
is the wider TV viewing audience anticipating a
Nine decision?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey