The Parrot goes country. The Sydney media is full of stories today about how Alan Jones won’t be at his 2GB microphone this week, thus sparing his mostly ageing audience of his views about Chris Masters’ unauthorised biography, Jonestown. The impression left in the reports is that big Al had just vanished, but Crikey can report that Jones is holed up at his country retreat in the southern highlands town of Bowral. He arrived there by helicopter from Sydney at 4.10pm yesterday. Bowral is just far enough away from the circles that Al mixes in to be invisible this week while the publicity around Jonestown burbles, but close enough to keep an eye on things and of course chat to his lawyers. The SMH continued its serialising of Jonestown today but it would seem The Australian has slipped in with a far more intriguing story. The paper reports that Masters says Jones’s employer, John Singleton, offered $300,000 to abandon his project and instead write a book that would have been under Jones’s control. Considering that Fairfax is paying Masters’ publisher thousands of dollars for the serialisation rights, it is a bit galling to see such a good story pop up in the opposition. Perhaps no-one at the SMH actually interviewed Masters about the book. The Australian says that Masters told it that he had the clear impression Singleton was acting on Jones’s behalf as a “second”. Masters says he took notes at the meeting at which Singleton had mentioned that $300,000 might be paid for a biography to be undertaken with Jones’s co-operation. The claim is repeated in Jonestown. — Glenn Dyer

Promotional stunts hold sway at The TeleNever let a good story get in the way of a promotional stunt, even if it’s the tragic death of four young men on the northern NSW coast. Today, The Australian could see a good story and had it at the top of page one and it led page 3 of The SMH  but the Daily Telegraph, which has been campaigning for a year or more on the question of P-plate drivers, driver training and other issues, buried it on page 7. Given the Tele‘s campaign, it’s hard to understand why the story didn’t go on page one instead of the Phar Lap death mystery solved yarn. At least until you see the top of page one and find readers can win a new $85,000 Alfa spider sports car. Turn to Page 22 in the paper and there’s a full page ad and readers have to collect six tokens from the paper between now and 4 November to be in the draw. It’s a circulation booster and not even a good story on the tragic deaths of four young men was allowed to get in the way. — Glenn Dyer

Seven wins for a second week running. For the second week running the Seven Network has scored a clear win in the week’s TV ratings. Unlike last year when Seven’s ratings power ran out of steam in the last half of the year, especially in the last two months, the network is powering along. So much so that Nine is having difficulty getting traction when it had planned to finish the year with a flourish. There are continuing signs of instability in its schedule with the 6pm news and current affairs timeslots slumping for the second week in a row and with a group of untried executives in most areas, except programming, Nine seems poorly equipped to staunch the surprise losses to Seven. Seven won with a share of 28.0% (28.5% for the previous week) to 26.8% for Nine (26.4%), 23.7% for Ten (23.1%, the ABC on 16.4% (16.3%) and SBS with 5.1% (5.7%). Seven won Sydney, Melbourne, lost Brisbane to Nine, drew Adelaide with Ten and easily won Perth as usual. Seven won Friday night, 27.4% to 26.5% for Nine, 21.3% for the ABC, 19.9% for Ten while SBS finished with 4.8%. On Saturday. the Rugby League game between Australia and New Zealand won the night for Nine with a 32.9% share from 25.1% for Seven, 20.1% for Ten, 16.2% for Ten and 5.8% for SBS. In regional areas Nine affiliates, WIN/NBN won with a share of 30.6% from Prime/7Qld with 26.2%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 22.5%, the ABC with 14.9% and SBS with 5.8%. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Sunday night and Idol blitzed the field again. The audience was a bit smaller than a week earlier at 1.736 million. and it beat 60 Minutes (1.660 million) into second. But viewers stayed around for the movie, The Bourne Supremacy which finished third with 1.567 million from 8.30pm. And that’s how Ten won the night. Third was Nine’s CSI with 1.567 million viewers, Nine News was next with 1.335 million, then Seven News with 1.329 million. The Real Seachange did OK with 1.220 million and won the key timeslot. The 7pm ABC news was next with 1.134 million, CSI New York averaged 1.123 million at 9.30 pm, and Medical Emergency on Seven at 7pm, averaged 1.114 million.

The Losers: Nine’s new 6.30pm program Overhaul: just 869,000 viewers. Normally that’s enough to get it pulled later today. Nine has nothing left and is committed to the next five eps. A bad Sunday evening is ahead. But then the news for Seven wasn’t good either. Good As Gold has turned to lead in its second outing: just 629,000 viewers at 7.30pm after 940,000 a week ago on debut. Seven like Nine is having no luck with its light entertainment programs (You May Be Right, The Master) Nine’s flops include Magda’s Funny Bits, Clever, What A Year and now Overhaul. At least Seven has other programs that are working.

News & CA: Nine News won the Sunday night battle by just 6,000 viewers, thanks to the 79,000 margin for Seven in Perth. Nine won all markets bar Perth in what was a convincing win. 60 Minutes was solid with 1.6 million viewers but the Liam Bartlett piece with Billy Crystal was damp, wet, boring. In the early morning battle Sunrise again was tops with 361,000 viewers from Landline on the ABC at Midday with 245,000. Nine’s Sunday added 7,000 viewers to reach 199,000. It’s like a double-headed edition of A Current Affair with two talking heads who have no warmth. Business Success on Nine at 8.30pm (the infomercial) averaged 115,000, Insiders on the ABC at 9am, 141,000, Inside Business, 89,000 at 10am on the ABC, Meet The Press at 8am on Ten, 84,000. Offsiders on the ABC at 10.30am, 81,000.

The Stats: Ten won the night with a share of 30.9%(29.4%) from Nine with 28.7% (27.1%), Seven with 20.8% (25.4%), the ABC with 14.9% (13.4%) and SBS with 4.7% (unchanged). Ten won Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, Seven won Perth narrowly. In regional areas it was Nine affiliates, NBN/WIN with 29.7% just in front of Southern cross (Ten) with 29.4%, Prime/7Qld with 21.0%, the ABC with 14.2%, and SBS with 5.8%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Idol continues to do well for Ten and the surprise last night was the way the audience stuck around for the movie, The first run Bourne Supremacy which would be one of the top rating movies of the year. Its predecessor, The Bourne Identity didn’t do as well the previous Sunday which was understandable given that it was a repeat. Ten also got a nice early evening kick from the Indy Car racing meet on the Gold Coast: it averaged 606,000 but it handed a solid audience to its 5pm news which averaged 1.038 million, Good figures for Sports Tonight (795,000) at 5.30pm, Meerkat Manor at 6.30pm (869,000) and then It’s Me or The Dog averaged more than 1.1 million to hand Idol a head start. Seven’s night ended with Good as Gold faded at 7.30pm. Just plain dull. The failure of Nine’s Overhaul to crack a million in the first outing of the revamped series (with Ordinary People rather than Celebs who want to lose weight) will surprise Willoughby. A lot more was expected. Perhaps it’s better as a strip half hour like Ten did With The Biggest Loser. But Nine had 60 Minutes and CSI to reclaim viewers, Seven had nothing from 8.30pm and performed poorly from then on. The ABC’s Operatunity (865,000) beat Good As Gold. Tonight it’s Grey’s Anatomy versus the rest. A spot of Idol on Ten, What’s Good For You and What A Year and Cold Case on Nine.