SBS get the 2009 Ashes but how will they pay for it? The head of SBS, Shaun Brown, knows how to butter up the Senate Estimates Committee amid a now familiar monstering from some of the conservative Liberals on the committee, not to mention the ALP’s media attack dalek, Senator Stephen Conroy. During some probing questions over budgets, advertising breaks and the now usual criticism of some of SBS’s documentaries and news programs, Brown broke some good news on the 2009 Ashes cricket: “We were delighted to announce overnight that we have secured the rights to the Ashes for free-to-air audiences for 2009”. The commercial networks didn’t bid, but there’s a question of how SBS will pay for the rights. It got a special one-off payment from the Federal Government for the 2005 Ashes coverage and to make sure it wasn’t short of money for this year’s World Cup. But Brown told the Estimates committee that SBS had been unsuccessful in a bid to extend the special sports funding and Senator Conroy asked yesterday: “Will you have to cut any current SBS sports as a result of this—the Tour de France, one of Senator Coonan’s favourites?” Brown replied no, that was contracted for some time. So the question remains how much will SBS be paying for the 2009 Ashes coverage and will it need to go to government again for a one-off payment to cover the costs? — Glenn Dyer

SBS advertising: a boon for local TV production? SBS has been criticised by all and sundry, or so it seems, over plans to emulate the commercial TV networks by including ad breaks during programs. Managing Director, Shaun Brown told the Senate Estimates Committee hearing in Canberra yesterday that the breaks would be done in accordance with the SBS’s guidelines which allow for advertising to be carried at the start or finish of a program and in “natural breaks”. He said the broadcaster had a senior counsel’s opinion that it was correct in what it was doing with the breaks, but wouldn’t release it, despite pressure from Senator Stephen Conroy. The commercial imperative behind the controversial move was revealed in the questioning — SBS currently received $30 million a year from advertising and Brown believes that could rise by $10 million under the new system, all of which will be spent on Australian TV production. Brown was asked if the added revenue might mean a cut in the amount of money paid to SBS each year by the Federal Government: “I think I have characterised it as being a risk. Clearly, it will be unsatisfactory from SBS’s point of view and its audience’s point of view if the commercial revenue were offset by a reduction in government funding … this money is tied to a particular activity for the benefit of Australian audiences. To confiscate it would be simply to require us to slash the service that we provide.” So all the luvvies and moaners decrying this change at SBS will of course be willing to put their hands in their pockets and donate the necessary money to allow more to be spent on local production, if the government cuts the SBS budget or the organisation reverses its decision on ad breaks. Somehow I don’t think so. — Glenn Dyer

Rupert calls an end to rent assistance. It must be hard for a mogul to learn that his public company is not a personal plaything. While his new $US44 million Fifth Avenue apartment is under renovation, Rupert Murdoch has been camping out with Wendi in the “swanky Trump Park Avenue apartment house” at a cost of $US50,000 per month, reports Fortune. A hefty price, not that Murdoch was footing the bill — News Corp had been assigned that particular privilege. However, though investors didn’t seem concerned, the decision “did not sit well with corporate-governance gadflies” writes Tim Arango, and Fortune “has learned that Murdoch quietly decided to pay back the money”. Confirmed a spokesman: “On reflection, Mr. Murdoch concluded it was more appropriate to cover the apartment expense himself”. The company is expected to disclose the reimbursement in a future filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. — Jane Nethercote

Hall leaves the Queensland Art Gallery. Still young enough to put another career under his belt, Doug Hall has signalled he will leave the Queensland Art Gallery early next year after notching up 20 years as director. As Dorothy Illing reports in The Australian, Hall was only 32 when he arrived in Brisbane from Bendigo to take on the daunting task of running a cultural institution in Bjelke-Petersen era Queensland. Over the years, Hall has proven himself to be an adept cultural impresario and administrator, managing to persuade governments, both National and Labor, to fund ambitious building and exhibition programs. His crowning achievement — the $100 million Gallery of Modern Art — is in the final stages of completion, and in December, Hall will oversee his fifth Asia Pacific Triennial, an event he founded back in the early 90s and which is now regarded as one of the most important showcases of contemporary art outside of Europe and North America. Hall says he hasn’t decided what he’ll do after he leaves the gallery next April, but he’s ruled out running another museum. Only Edmund Capon at the Art Gallery of New South Wales outdoes Hall in the longevity stakes among Australian museum directors. Capon started at the AGNSW in 1978. Hall’s job, overseeing a vastly expanded institution in Brisbane, will be a keenly sought-after post. — Stephen Feneley

Good as Gold joins the scrapheap. Australian commercial TV’s list of Light Entertainment failures continues to mount with the news that Seven’s Sunday evening effort, Good As Gold (By Spicks and Specks, out of 20 to 1) has gone to the scrap heap somewhere in Victoria. Seven planned to make four to six episodes: it lasted just four as the audience tanked badly to the point where it ran fourth at 7.30pm on Sunday night. That outcome reaffirmed Seven’s decision late last week to dispatch Good As Gold to join The Master and You May Be Right in the Halls of Shame. It also joins Nine’s Clever, Magda’s Funny Bits and several other efforts still on air such as Overhaul, Big Questions and What A Year: all dying slowly as the ratings year drags on but a desperate Nine has to keep them there because the replacements (if any) are even worse. Ten of course has Yasmin’s Getting Married to remind its management if ever they think they are bulletproof as they survey the successes like Thank God You’re Here and The Biggest Loser. — Glenn Dyer

Another unfortunate online ad. We’re wondering how Monash Uni felt about this ad appearing along with this story in The Age

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Monday night, Grey’s Anatomy, a season ender: a no brainer to see it as a Seven Network win and so it was. Grey’s topped the night with 1.959 million. Not as many as the finale for House on Ten which was more than two million, but a pleasant enough figure for Seven. Second was Home and Away with 1.403 million and third was Seven News with 1.364 million. the Verdict edition of Australian Idol was 4th with 1.310 million and A Current Affair was next with 1.272 million, just in front of Today Tonight with 1.263 million. Nine’s What’s Good For You averaged 1.243 million at 7.30pm (and seemed a little once over lightly, another version of ACA and TT last night). Nine News was 8th with 1.222 million, Seven’s 9.30pm show, Criminal Minds, averaged 1.179 million, Temptation, 1.174 million, The Great Outdoors, 1.091 million and a repeat of Law And Order SVU, 1.075 million at 8.30pm. It was the 12th and final program with a million or more viewers on the first week night of Daylight Saving which hurt the early evening programs. Bert’s Family Feud lost around 40,000 viewers to end at 504,000, Deal Or No Deal shed a few thousand to end at 750,000 (its been averaging around this figure in recent weeks) and Ten’s News At Five was crunched by the time change: its audience fell 250,000 to 350,000 to average 586,000 last night.

The Losers: Nine’s What A Year, just 920,000 viewers, not the audience you want in the 8.30pm Monday slot. It ran third behind Grey’s and the Law and Order repeat on Ten…Nine’s 9.30 repeat of Cold Case averaged 847,000, not nearly enough. The Biggest Loser 3 on Ten at 9.30pm, 663,000 viewers, it’s just filling the hour.

News & CA: Seven News won nationally but was spotty. Seven News won Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. Nine News won Melbourne and Brisbane. Nine News won by 144,000 nationally and 107,000 in Perth. A Current Affair beat TT by 9,000 but that included a 78,000 margin in favour of TT in Perth. There was a noticeable switch off from Seven News to TT in Sydney and Melbourne. The 7pm ABC News averaged 938,000, The 7.30 Report, 797,000, Four Corners, 843,000, the last Media Watch of the year, 758,000, Enough Rope With Andrew Denton, 830,000 with a strange interview on a Living Library from Sweden, an interview with Harry M. Miller (why? he has had enough profiles done on him) and a good interview with Les Carlyon on his new book on Australia’s involvement on the Western Front in World War One which could have gone longer and occupied the space taken up by Harry M. or the Living Librarians. And Chris Bath won Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in Sydney, not just Friday and Sunday as I said yesterday. Sunrise beat Today, despite Nine going big with the Beaconsfield miners. They sort of came and went without any impact on Today‘s audience.

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 32.1% (31.2% a week earlier) with Nine in second on 25.3% (25.7%), Ten with 20.6% (20.7%), the ABC with 15.9% (unchanged) and SBS with 6.2% (6.5%). Seven won all five metro markets but Nine leads the week 28.1% to 26.8%. in regional areas Nine’s affiliates, WIN/NBN won with a share of 30.0% from Prime/7Qld with 26.4%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 20.7%, the ABC with 15.6% and SBS with 7.2%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: It will be a different Monday night next week with Criminal Minds in the 8.30pm timeslot. but that’s what Seven did successfully with Grey’s Anatomy last year and it has turned out to be one of the Network’s two best performers this year (Border Security was the other). Ten and Nine might get closer next week. Tonight it’s Dancing With The Stars on Seven at 7.30pm, All Saints at 9.15pm start and then Crossing Jordan. Nine has 20 to 1 with the world’s best love songs (why wasn’t this shown around Valentine’s Day), a repeat of CSI and The Closer, Ten has another episode of the appalling Joker Poker which should be declared an infomercial with no redeeming qualities. The only question tonight is can Dancing head closer towards two million viewers this time round?