What’s the media business? It’s packaging.
The job of commercial media is to package people and sells them to advertisers in boxes of
varying size and quality.


Last weekend in the mainland state
capitals, Channel Nine’s Business Sunday packaged an average of 168,000 people. Include
Canberra and the bush and there would have to have been a good 200,000 heads in the
package. Not a large box by television standards, but it’s a quality one with
the contents heavy in groups A and B.

That’s a real 200,000 – not some funny multiple of dodgy circulation
whereby each copy of a paper or magazine is “read” by half a dozen sets of
eyes. (Maybe the cover is “seen” by such
multiples, but only if you include an assumed dog and several passing crows.)

And unlike print, there’s a very good
chance that the contents of the Business Sunday
box would at least hear the
advertiser’s message instead of automatically flipping the page. Or
whole
sections and editions. It’s the sort of 200,000 that standard pay-TV
channels and what’s left of the quality magazine market can only dream
about – and never mind narrow-casters.


But it seems Channel Nine isn’t capable of
making and selling such a box at a profit and thus has killed Business Sunday
after 20 years. The current PBL management certainly won’t miss it. In the
past, Business Sunday was capable of embarrassing Park Street by
being critical of or merely somewhat difficult in dealing with powerful
friends. It was part of the price of maintaining credibility.

Now there’s to be no program of big
business and economics left on commercial FTA television to question or be
critical of anyone – the ABC’s Inside Business is handed a subject matter monopoly.

And that unique
package of 200,000 viewers ceases to exist. You might think management can’t be
much good if they couldn’t make a go of it – or maybe it just didn’t matter
anymore.


Peter Fray

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