Bashing public figures OK if in the public interest. The House of Lords has handed down a landmark ruling on libel laws. “In a judgment that lawyers predict will usher in a new era of journalism, five law lords unanimously ruled in favour of a public interest defence that brings English law close to the freedom enjoyed by US media,” reports The Times. “Journalists will be able to publish material if they act responsibly and in the public interest, and be free from the risk of libel damages, even if allegations later prove untrue.” That’s probably an “over-optimistic journalist’s take on what I’m sure is a finely-parsed ratio with a few devils in its complex detail”, reckons Australian legal blogger Armagnac. But it’s still a “huge change”. And it sets the UK apart from Australia where the “High Court has given us a cautious right of political communication”. — Jane Nethercote

Tele says its sorry — but not to ANZ. News Ltd tabloid, The Daily Telegraph has published an abject apology not to the ANZ bank but to “ANZ bank customers” over the now discredited report on an ANZ call centre in India. The apology was published on the bottom of Page 2 of today’s edition of the Tele under the heading “Daily Telegraph apology over ANZ report.” It said “The newspaper wrongly identified an ANZ building as a call centre. It is in fact a technology centre employing some 14,000 people in information technology and back office roles which do not affect Australian customers. The ANZ does not have any customer call centres overseas.” It continued: “The Daily Telegraph made the error when the reporter’s copy was changed in production based on the flawed belief that the accompanying photograph of the ANZ building was a call centre. There was no ill-will or malice in the error. Again, we apologise and withdraw.” Tele editor David Penberthy has put his hand up for the error in changing the reporter’s copy. So will this get the $5 million in advertising back to news Ltd outlets that the ANZ flicked earlier this week? The Fairfax-owned Sydney Morning herald in highlighting the Tele‘s squirming this morning claimed “The revenue will go to Fairfax, publisher of the Herald“. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
There was no dispute about last night. The Ten Network was the winner, Seven was second and Nine was third. So much for its attempt to storm home at the end of the ratings year with a big surge of attractive viewing options. Last night continues Nine’s poor Wednesday night figures of late (to go with weak Monday and Tuesday nights). Besides the performance of Ten, the soccer (Australia vs. Bahrain) from Sydney on SBS also clipped audiences with its 640,000 average audience from 7 pm to 9.30pm. A new episode of House was the top program, watched by 1.743 million people. Thank God You’re Here averaged 1.673 million for Ten at 7.30pm. Seven News was next with 1.456 million, Home and Away was 4th at 7 pm with 1.391 million and Ten’s repeat of NCIS at 9.30 pm averaged 1.343 million. Today Tonight averaged 1.305 million in 6th spot, Seven’s 7.30 program, The Force averaged 1.190 million, A Current Affair was 8th with 1.204 million, Temptation was 9th with 1.201 million, Nine News was next with 1.190 million and Police Files (8pm, Seven), averaged 1.187 million. Nine’s McLeod’s Daughters was 12th with 1.151 million, Spicks and Specks on the ABC at 8.30 pm averaged 1.095 million(off a bit from recent levels), Forensic Investigators (7, 8.30pm) averaged 1.076 million and the 7 pm ABC News was the 15th and last program with a million or more viewers with 1.034 million.

The Losers: McLeod’s Daughters, crushed by Thank God You’re Here. Aussie bush romanticism is not as popular as a bit of urban (well, Melbourne) humour takes over. Seven’s Deal Or No Deal was down again at 770,000 viewers but it had absolutely no impact on Seven News for the second night in a row, which won the night. Bert’s Family Feud was sort of steady on 587,000. Nine’s CSI Miami (942,000) is going the way the spin-offs from the original program are going: downhill so far as viewers are concerned. It is an interesting judgement. House (and Grey’s Anatomy on Seven on Monday nights) have a powerful impact on viewers at the moment with their version of romanticism.The ABC’s New Inventors at 8pm is also dying, down to 749,000. Nine’s Today Show was again weak, the 7am edition with 221,000 was easily beaten by the early Sunrise from 6am, 282,000 and the regular Sunrise from 7am with 462,000. This is now Nine and Eddie McGuire’s most pressing problem. It’s up to him, Gary Linnell and David Hurley, the brains trust running Nine News and Current Affairs, to repair.

News & CA: Seven News had another big win, 266,000 nationally with 134,000 of that in Perth. Seven News won Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Nine News won Brisbane and its lengthy recovery over the past few months has seemingly halted this week. It was again closer between TT and ACA. TT won by 101,000 nationally, with 100,000 of those in Perth. TT won Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. TT in Melbourne lost 63,000 viewers from Seven News, ACA added 29,000. Its a telling weakness for TT which shed 151,000 viewers the 6 pm news. ACA picked up viewers from Nine News. Though the ABC News was solid, The 7.30 Report (728,000) was hurt by Thank God on Ten. The Soccer on SBS wouldn’t have helped either. Ten News At Five recovered a bit from the night before to average 840,000 viewers across the hour..

The Stats: Ten won with 29.4% (27.6% a week earlier) from Seven on 25.2% (28.6%), Nine, 22.4% (25.7%), the ABC with 14.7% (unchanged) and SBS with 8.3%(3.5%). Ten won Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide., Seven won Perth and won Sydney in a close night. The soccer on SBS did best of all in Sydney and SBS got a 12.4% share. Seven leads the week 28.5% to 25.5%. In regional areas. Southern Cross (Ten) won with 27.9% from Nine’s WIN/NBN affiliates with 25.9%, Prime/7Qld with 24.8%, the ABC with 13.8% and SBS with 7.7%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: It’s amazing what a bit of entertainment will do to viewer interest, plus some romantic URST: I mean Thank God on Ten and House, also on Ten. Viewers love them. Tonight though its a bit of a different story. Nine has old Getaway at 7.30 and the question here is, can it get up above 1.2 million viewers? Nine has RPA at 9.30pm and will be looking for its to clamber back to its 2005 average of more than 1.5 million viewers. Ten had Jericho, David Tench and Ronnie Johns, all after the improving Jamie’s Kitchen Australia. Seven has Earl at 8pm, Celebrity Survivor at 8.30pm and Bones at 9.30pm. Can’t pick it. For me though Jamie’s Kitchen as an entree and I’ll decide then whether to skip mains and sweeties. Now a point about Saturday night. The Nine Network like Seven and Ten, is advertising against any change in the anti-siphoning rules for sports coverage. Foxtel has replied with an ad that accuses the commercial networks of putting sport in a safe and slamming the door. So on Saturday Nine won’t be telecasting live the Australia-New Zealand Rugby League Test from across the Tasman when it is played in the late afternoon, our time. Nine will record it and play it at 6.30pm as a ratings enhancer in Sydney and Brisbane that night. That’s the sort of activity Foxtel (which doesn’t have clean hands in this debate either) should jump on and highlight.