C7 judge leaves media world hanging. There’s one very frustrated Federal Court judge in Justice Ron Sackville who now knows that he drew a very short straw when allotted the C7 case last year. That’s where the Seven Network has been suing most of its competitors, the AFL and various individuals claiming that they conspired to put its C7 Pay TV channel out of business by colluding on the 2001 AFL TV rights. The case finished yesterday in the Federal Court in Sydney and Justice Sackville reserved his decision but not before displaying some mordant humour. He left the 20-odd parties hanging as to a possible timeframe for his judgement which is understandable, seeing he had to sit through 120 days of hearings in this mind-numbingly boring case. Then there’s all the work out of court, thousands of pages of documents to read: plus knowing he won’t have his life back again until well into 2007. “As much as I would like to give an ‘extempore’ judgment, probably the sensible course is to reserve,” Justice Sackville said. “I can tell the parties when I deliver judgment the date of my enforced retirement is 2013, so it will be before then. Apart from that you will just have to wait and see as to when the judgment is produced.” — Glenn Dyer

More News Ltd furphies on AFL TV rights. Another odd story from a News Ltd paper about the stand-off between the Seven and Ten Networks and Foxtel over coverage of the 2007 AFL season. Yesterday’s Herald Sun reported that: “As nigh-impossible as it sounds, talk has spread in the past week – particularly from the mouths of some corporates at the Grand Final on Saturday – that Nine may yet play a role in the broadcasting of football next year.” Last week it was The Australian pitching the wrong line that Foxtel was closing the Fox Footy Channel because Seven and Ten wouldn’t play ball. That was rubbish — the channel was always going to close because of cost problems and Fox Sports 3 was always going to carry the AFL next year. Both Seven and Ten agree with Harold Mitchell that the idea of Nine becoming involved is laughable: besides, Nine has contracted to carry two NRL games live or near live in NSW and Queensland on Friday nights next year. The AFL draw for 2007 and broadcast schedules from Ten and Seven are expected by the end of October, along with the schedule for the V8 Supercar competition which is back on Seven next year. Both Seven and Ten maintain they will cover the games according to the terms of the contract in all markets without Foxtel if need be in 2007. As Mitchell points out, 39 of the top 40 programs on Foxtel are sport and of the top ten all are sport, divided between AFL and NRL. This is where the PBL representatives on the Foxtel board will have to blink or look around for someone to blame next year when subscriptions tank and profits go south. — Glenn Dyer

Pro-blogger gets cashed up. Melbourne’s “pro-blogger” Darren Rowse made news about a year ago when he claimed to make a six figure salary from his various blogs, many of which specialise in camera equipment. Now he has more good news. B5media, a network of blogs he helped found and which is now based in Toronto, has raised US$2 million of equity financing. B5media has flown in under the radar of Australia’s mainstream media, but it is a network of semi-professional bloggers on every conceivable topic, all of whom earn money on a revenue sharing basis with the organisers. The result is rather like vast stable of interactive and linked magazines. Anyone who thinks of blogging as the exclusive preserve of fringe libertarians, fanatics and anarchists should cop the paragraph below, drawn from Rowse’s press release. Not sure what it means, but I’m pretty certain it’s big media talk. “b5media is a new media network targeting the mainstream via vertical-specific content. The Toronto-based company will use the funding to increase the depth of the content in its existing vertical, launch properties in new verticals, and increase distribution channels to get the right content to the right people at the right time.” The new funding comes from Brightspark Ventures and JL Albright Venture Partners, and Rowse says it will be used to “strengthen the company’s network of bloggers to create greater value for readers and advertisers.” A former minister of religion who started blogging to encourage the exploration of faith, Rowse is already speaking like a mogul. Or an accountant. Or a marketer. — Margaret Simons

Media and Arts groups condemn sedition laws. 80arts and media organisations have banded together to put their names to a statement condemning the sedition provisions of the Howard Government’s anti-terror legislation. The organisations include lobby groups across various art forms, theatre companies, galleries, trade unions and magazines. Their joint press release says the new sedition laws “represents the most dangerous threat to freedom of expression in this country’s history, and is an intolerable curtailment of a fundamental human right”. Attorney General Phillip Ruddock has refused to amend the laws despite a recommendation from the Australian Law Reform Commission. As a sop to opponents of the bill, Ruddock referred it to the ALRC for review, but only after it was passed by Federal Parliament. That he was only prepared to subject the legislation to scrutiny after it became law was widely interpreted as a sign that he never intended to make changes. The joint statement says: “This is not an issue of marginal concern, but one which goes directly to the heart of our democracy. Freedom of expression is often declared to be one of the great freedoms brave Australians have in the past and present laid down their lives for, and we cannot allow it to be abandoned in such a careless way, and we will not.” — Stephen Feneley

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: A quiet night with school holidays making a mess of viewing figures all night. Jamie’s Kitchen Australia picked up to top the charts last night with 1.288 million viewers. It was the best ep so far. Seven’s Home and Away at 7pm averaged 1.251 million, followed by Seven News (1.248 million) and Today Tonight (1.226 million, thanks Perth in both cases). RPA returned last night with 1.191 million for Nine at 9.30pm, more than 300,000 under its season average last year. Nine’s Temptation averaged 1.179 million, A Current Affair, 1.167 million, My Name is Earl (Seven, 8 pm, 1.127 million), Nine News was in ninth spot with 1.127 million, Nine’s Two and a Half Men (8.30 to 9.30pm) averaged 1.123 million, Ten’s Jericho at 8.30 pm, 1.091 million, Nine’s Getaway at 7.30pm, 1.070 million, Seven’s Celebrity Survivor was close behind with 1.040 million and Seven’s Bones, 9.30 pm, 1.004 million.

The Losers: On a night when viewers strayed or stayed away, Bert averaged 579,000, Deal Or No Deal, a very low 687,000, Ten News averaged 764,000. Nothing could really be called a loser because of the low viewing levels induced by school holidays and nice weather. Of course there are some who’d argue that’s when viewing levels should be higher, but the reality is different. No homework, time to go out, shop, visit friends, meet the kids and or parents again after missing them during school-working weeks. A further sign of the lower than normal viewing levels: there were only three programs which attracted 400,000 viewers or more and they were all in Melbourne. Not one in Sydney. Jamie’s Kitchen averaged 473,000 in Melbourne (where it is based). In all, Melbourne had 14 programs with 300,000 or more viewers, Sydney, just five.

News & CA: Seven News and Today Tonight won, because of Perth. Seven News had a national margin of 121,000 and 127,000 in Perth. Seven News won Brisbane and Perth, Nine won Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. TT won nationally by 59,000 and with 89,000 in Perth, TT won Adelaide and Perth. Nine won Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In Brisbane TT shed 50,000 viewers from Seven News. The 7pm ABC News averaged 923,000, The 7.30 Report, 743,000. Sunrise (486,000) easily beat Today (211,000) Early Sunrise at 6am averaged 277,000 and it beat Early Today (131,000) and Today from 7am.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 29.0% (37.3% a week ago for the Footy Show Grand Final programs) from Seven on 28.8% (26.3%), Ten on 22.5% (19.2%), the ABC with 13.7% (11.7%) and SBS with 5.9% (5.5%). Nine won Sydney and Melbourne, Seven won Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Nine leads the week 30.0% to 27.8%. In regional areas Nine affiliates WIN/NBN won with a share of 30.9% from Prime/7Qld with 29.0%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 20.2%, the ABC with 13.3% and SBS with 6.7%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: At last something to get your teeth into on Jamie’s Kitchen: food, the cooking thereof and all the pressures and tribulations of disadvantaged kids grappling with learning complex ideas and tasks they were not equipped to understand. It was gripping TV at times. If the program continues in this vein it will be a winner, regardless of the numbers. It’s another example of the risk-taking the Ten Network has been engaging in for the past year. RPA‘s first outing was soft in audience terms but it did warm up last year. Ten and Andrew Denton will be happier with the better figures (612,000) for David Tench at 9.30 pm last night. Ronnie Johns (460,000) not so cool about their figures at 10pm. Nine is desperate to fill its schedule; it’s repeating Missing Persons Unit (a high profile new program from a few months ago) at 11pm Thursdays. It was watched by just 448,000. Why not run Nightline at 11pm instead of 11.30pm? Nine has the Scientologist Samurai known as Tom Cruise-san in the movie The Last Samurai. Seven has a tearjerker called Hope Springs, Ten has Everybody Hates Chris and 8 Mile (Eminem and Kim Basinger) and the ABC has, wake me quickly, the Midsomer Murders, which was the most watched program last Friday night. And the weekend: well, Saturday night Ten has buried a docu-drama on the 2002 Bali bombing. Why? That’s the highlight. Sunday night, though, schools are ending: Seven starts The Real Seachange at 6.30 pm and brings back Medical Emergency at 7 pm. It has World’s Most Stupid Criminals (really), Nine returns Backyard Blitz and has new CSI and CSI New York but Ten has Idol and then Super Size Me at 9pm which looks the most interesting thing on that night, apart from Operatunity on the ABC.

Peter Fray

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