Maxine McKew not disgruntled, just looking for new challenges. She really isn’t pissed off. That’s the message from veteran ABC broadcaster Maxine McKew, who yesterday announced her decision to leave the ABC. Given the various controversies swirling around the national broadcaster in the last few weeks, some are bound to think that McKew is leaving disgruntled at recent events – perhaps the new editorial guidelines, perhaps the activism of the Board, perhaps the new Managing Director, Mark Scott. Wrong, wrong, wrong insisted McKew when I rang her yesterday. “That couldn’t be more incorrect.” She is leaving, she says, because at 53 she has done everything she ever wanted to do in journalism, and wants to try new things. What things? She claims not to know yet, though I suspect she has some ideas. In the past she has muttered about possibly writing a book, but yesterday she was saying only that she would take some months off and “read a lot of books instead”. As for her employer, “the ABC I’m leaving is a far more vibrant, robust organisation than the one I joined.” And she made it clear that she thinks Mark Scott is, in most if not all ways, on the right track with his leadership of the organisation. Scott clearly likes her as well. He has asked her to be Master of Ceremonies at the farewell dinner for ABC Chairman Donald McDonald in December. It will be one of McKew’s last gigs for the ABC, and is bound to be something of a landmark event, a changing of the guard. By then we should know who the new Chairman will be, and Mark Scott will perhaps have had a chance to set out his agenda in an area insiders say is far closer to his heart than new editorial guidelines. That is, of course, the place and role of public broadcasting in the new media world. Watching this space, Mr Scott. — Margaret Simons

Private equity funds munching through the media. Lloyd’s List publisher Informa has confirmed an approach by private equity firms Candover and Cinven in a reflection of recent media moves in the US and Australia. The step also reflects a greater concentration of media ownership. Candover and Cinven already own the world’s second largest academic publisher, Springer Science and Business Media. Any deal could create a European publishing giant worth more than four billion pounds, the Financial Times has reported. — Christian Kerr

Seven could still win the year at least on some measures. Several weeks ago the Nine Network claimed victory in the 2006 prime time ratings battle with about ten weeks to go. The network said it had won the majority of weeks and couldn’t be beaten, but there’s another way of measuring the ratings battle. There’s the commercial share battle between Nine, Ten and Seven, which matters a lot. And then there’s the size of the average audience in prime time, with the 6pm to 10.30pm period being the most important. That’s what Sydney media research group, Fusion measures and yesterday it put out an update showing that on the various measures Nine still leads, but it’s a narrow advantage. Fusion said that from week one to week 36 Nine’s average audience has fallen 0.63% to 1.254 million, while Seven’s is up 0.67% to $1.206 million. That includes everything, Commonwealth Games and Easter. Ten is the big mover amongst the free to air networks with its audience growing 2.41% to an average 979,000. Pay TV, though, was the fastest growing network with its total audience up 17.4% to 660,000, more than SBS and approaching that of the ABC, whose audience fell 6.1% to an average 686,000. Fusion says that if Seven finishes more strongly than Nine (which it has done over the past fortnight), there’s a chance it could pass Nine and end up with the highest average audience among the networks for the year. — Glenn Dyer

Big Brother return confirmed for 2007. The Ten Network and its partners, Endemol Southern Star, have learned their lesson from the past two years of running naughty Big Brother programs after 9.30pm. It made the network a target for attention-seeking politicians like Trish Draper and Paul Neville, and Ten abandoned the Adults Only program earlier this year to shut down the criticism. Apart form the controversy about the AO program and the “turkey slapping” incident, Big Brother had a big year in 2006 and Ten and Endemol Southern Star both confirmed yesterday that it would be returning for a seventh series next year. And with Ten lifting its website and internet game next month, the Big Brother website will be integrated with Ten’s digital platform and become a more recognisable brand for the network. The website content will continue to be provide MA rated content, which has always been a feature of the premium site. Access is restricted to people over the age of 18. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: Dancing With The Stars lifted to 1.677 million and top spot last night night but it wasn’t the most enthralling of programs. Nine’s repeat of CSI got close, averaging 1.417 million, a sign that Dancing is becoming a bit boring for some viewers. Seven News was third with 1.377 million followed by Home and Away (1.363 million), 20 to 1 (1.363 million) and A Current Affair (1.325 million), just 7,999 in front of Today Tonight. All Saints averaged 1.297 million from 9.30pm, Nine News was ninth with 1.276 million and Temptation was tenth with 1.214 million.

The Losers: Ten after The Simpsons (992,000) but excepting Rove (680,000) who did wonders in lifting his audience (there is a following!) after the appallingly bad Celebrity Joker Poker at 8.30pm (559,000).

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally with a margin of 101,000 and 96,000 in Perth. Nine won Sydney and Melbourne, Seven won Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. A Current Affair a narrow winner over TT by 7,000 but TT won Perth by 106,000 so a good win to ACA in reality. TT only won Perth and yet for the past two nights it’s had that good story on the appalling DVD from Melbourne showing youths abusing a young woman. The  7 pm ABC News averaged 941,000, The 7.30 Report, 738,000 (Dancing impact) and Sunrise and Early Sunrise both beat Today on Nine.

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 33.7% (32.5% a week earlier) from Nine with 31.1% (27.8%), Ten with 17.3% (21.0% when a third ep of Idol was run on Tuesday night. Perhaps that should become a more regular option to hold the audience up?). The ABC averaged 13.1% (13.6%) and SBS 4.8% (5.1%). Seven won Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. Nine won Melbourne and Brisbane. The week is now a tie at 28.4% each for Seven and Nine. In regional areas Nine’s affiliates WIN/NBN won with a share of 33.0% from Prime/7Qld with 31.7%, Southern Cross(Ten) with 18.6%, the ABC with 12.0% and SBS with 4.7%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Even though Dancing with the Stars lifted its audience last night past the 1.6 million mark it was not a brilliant effort. The program looked and sounded flabby and unchanging. Nine won in Melbourne despite the good audience there for Dancing of 511,000. Nine also won Brisbane where Dancing has never been as popular as elsewhere but Seven had a big win in Sydney. For Ten a night to forget. Celebrity Joker Poker is a Mediacom production: ie. it’s made by an advertising buying group promote its clients’ product. There’s a liquor product involved, while Crown Casino got free publicity on the Ten Network. Strange how the mega-wealthy Packer interests are getting a free plug on a rival network. Only 559,000 people watched. Ten would have been better off with repeats of Law and Order. Mediacom must have been paying Ten to put the show to air. It was poor and not prime time material. Tonight though Ten rebounds thanks to Thank God You’re Here. There’s also the premiere of a new series called Tripping Over done in conjunction with Channel Five of Britain. If it works (there are six eps) it becomes a part of the schedule next year and a new soap aimed above Neighbours and Home and Away. If it doesn’t it’s a noble bit of risk taking. Ten has positioned it well, after Thank God which will average around 1.7 million viewers (if past weeks are any judge) and give the new program a decent start in life. It won’t be a repeat of Seven’s co-production fiasco from last year, Headland. Nine would like to see McLeod’s Daughters lift tonight and Seven will be in there battling for second place.

Peter Fray

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