Murdochs and Packers signal all’s well in mogul land. You can imagine how the likes of Leila McKinnon, Sharyn Ghidella and other female stars at the Nine Network are feeling about the news that Sarah Murdoch is getting a gig in TV on Nine’s Today show. The news was officially broken almost reverently in the News Ltd media on Saturday with pictures issued for the media in time for the Sunday papers. So laudatory was the reporting I had a feeling that Sister Teresa might be appearing on our TV screens early in the morning from next month. But no it’s the lesser sainted Sarah Murdoch. And to make the point even more obvious, James Packer’s former wife, Jodhi Meares, a somewhat average reporter on Getaway, has been given the prize gig of hosting Foxtel’s Australia’s Next Top Model. PBL and News own half of Foxtel. But Sarah’s gig is the most interesting. What a way to signal to the ageing media mogul that the Packer and Murdoch interests have kissed and made up in Australia after the unpleasantness of Lachie’s testimony at the One.Tel hearing. The News Ltd media told us yesterday how it was Eddie McGuire’s idea and how he negotiated fiercely with Sarah (and whoever was representing her) till he got the deal he wanted last week. The reality is that if James Packer didn’t want it, or Lachlan or Rupert, the Today show gig wouldn’t have happened. Period! This is a symbolic deal. James Packer has shown there are no hard feelings. Ignored is what Nine really does for a permanent host next year. Does Ms Murdoch fill in for the full four months that Jessica Rowe is on maternity leave? Is Ms Rowe coming back to Today (if she is, the ratings won’t improve)? Kark Stefanovic is filling for Tracy Grimshaw at A Current Affair over summer: so what happens at Today and ACA when ratings start next February? — Glenn Dyer

More changes at Fairfax Business Media. Kathy Bail is the new editor of the AFR Magazine. The existing editor, Brook Turner, has been given the title of managing editor. Bail is a refugee from the turmoil at The Bulletin following the appointment of John Lehmann as editor after Gary Linnell was sent to Nine. Bail, who had been the nuts and bolts magazine person at The Bulletin, is a big plus for a magazine rich on ads and lifestyle but short on must read comment and stories. Meanwhile there are reports at the SMH that wunderkind journalist Julia Baird (who is considered to be the biggest thing since sliced bread by some people at the ABC and the SMH) is New York bound and going to a gig at Newsweek. — Glenn Dyer

Networks refuse ads for ad skipping TV. Here’s an interesting issue for Graeme Samuel at the ACCC to wrestle with: a little bit of collusion and anti-competitive action. According to this story at the weekend the commercial TV networks refused to show an ad for a new LG TV with an inbuilt hard drive that was advertised as allowing the user to skip TV ads. There was nothing objectionable in the ad: just a new product. It is in keeping with the crude attempts by PBL to attack the small electronic program guide group, ICE TV. So much for media diversity: is this what self-regulation is all about, self-protection. What a farce! — Glenn Dyer

Seven comes back to win the week. Believe it or not, the Seven Network managed to win last week’s ratings battle in both the 6pm to 12 midnight time zone and Zone 1 (6pm to 10.29pm), despite trailing badly after Sunday and Monday nights. Seven won without massive audiences from any program: Grey’s Anatomy has ended for the year on Sunday nights while Dancing with the Stars is yet to hit two million viewers and Border Security only averaged 1.5 million last week after averaging two million plus in its previous series. In short, Seven beat Nine with some top line programs but mostly second tier or developing programs for 2007. What it showed is that Nine has run out of ideas and is crawling towards the salvation of summer and the Ashes cricket, which will not do a thing about the 2007 ratings schedule.Ten is also fading with just Australian Idol to sustain it this week and next. Seven won last week with 28.8% (28.5%) the week before from Nine on 27.2% (28.7%), ten with 21.6% (21.0%), the ABC with 17.0% (16.9%) and SBS with 4.8% (5.1%). — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: Sunday night and another win for Nine, another below performance for Seven and Ten is being kept in the game by Australian Idol which was the most watched program on national TV yesterday with 1.763 million viewers. Down to the final three and a verdict tonight. Second was 60 Minutes with 1.497 million, the repeat of 20 to 1 at 6.30pm averaged 1.434 million; Seven News was fourth with 1.425 million and the program of the night, ABBAmania on Nine at 8.30pm a respectable 1.260 million. It’s a pity it was such a horrible program. One of the worst on TV this year. Nine News was sixth with 1.208 million, Seven’s The Real Seachange 1.149 million (down on last week), Ten’s movie Van Helsing, 1.105 million, Seven’s fresh episode of A Touch of Frost averaged 1.053 million from 8.30pm and the ABC’s new telemovie, Stepfather of The Bride (apologies to Steve Martin), averaged 1.050 million. The 7pm ABC News averaged 1.025 million and was the 11th and last program with a million or more viewers. Seven’s Egypt special from the BBC averaged 949.000 at 7.30pm, the ABC’s Wild Europe, 861,000 at 7.30pm; Ten’s It’s Me Or The Dog at 7pm, 846.000.

The Losers: The Einstein Factor on the ABC had its finale last night for the year with 739,000. It’s apparently returning next year. Hmmmm. Overhaul, sinking, down to 336,000 at 5 pm (350,000 the previous week). Forgotten by Nine in the triumph of ABBAmania last night. We were all losers with that nasty derivative program hosted by Bec Hewitt and Dickie Wilkins (who must be coming up for his 25th anniversary in Australia soon). Hewitt’s screeching voice last night was offputting. It wasn’t new, the program first aired in Britain last century. And what’s this about the second Sunday in November and ABBA? A year ago Seven aired its ABBA special that was hosted by Molly Meldrum with considerably more panache. So what’s next year – the best of Queen, Elvis or Human Nature?

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market, beating Nine by more than 200,000 viewers. 60 Minutes was its usual self with Ray Martin talking to the Sheik of Lakemba Mosque. What’s this, 60 Minutes is discovering issues? And speaking of issues, the sprawling, brawling loud debate between various Muslim groups on Sunday yesterday morning verged from the intelligent to the banal and Current Affairish. Host Ellen Fanning did a good job but she has no studio warmth or charisma whatsoever and co-host Ross Greenwood is all false smile and bonhomie. Why do they need two people to do a job that was filled by talented hosts in Jim Waley and Jana Wendt? Even yesterday the sum total of Fanning and Greenwood’s efforts do not add up to a Waley or Wendt. Laurie Oakes still has the credibility essential to Sunday‘s survival. Still, its audience improved to 265,000 but Landline on the ABC at noon, 312,000 and Weekend Sunrise, 8am to 10am, with 396,000 were well ahead. That was Sunday‘s best audience since the appalling changes in early September. The ABC’s Insiders at 9am with 172,000 viewers for the hour, had one of its highest audiences this year, likewise Inside Business at 10 am with 119,000 and Offsiders, at 10.30 am with 120,000. No such luck for Ten’s Meet the Press, down on 46,000 viewers at 8 am. Business Success, the infomercial on Nine at 8.30am averaged 155,000 and that’s why Sunday did well, the lead-in had a solid audience.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 30.2% (29.0% last week) from Ten with 25.3% (25.9%), Seven with 23.5%, (22.4%), the ABC with 17.1% (17.8%) and SBS with 3.9% (4.0%). Ten won Perth (with Idol) Nine won all four other metro markets. In regional areas, WIN/NBN won for Nine with a share of 28.5%, from Southern Cross (Ten) with 27.5%, Prime/7Qld with 22.9%, the ABC with 17.2% and SBS with 3.9%).

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Apart from the screeching Bec Hewitt and the program she co-hosted, it was a good night’s viewing with lots of choice. it was good to see 60 Minutes attempting issues (Peter Overton’s story on cancer was a sensitive treatment). Idol continues to do well for Ten: it has to, there is nothing else left in the locker and repeats of House reappear this Wednesday night at 7.30pm. Tonight a much closer contest now that Seven doesn’t have Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds is building at 8.30pm. Standoff might get some traction this week, or so Seven hopes. Nine has What A Year and a repeat of Cold Case and on the ABC we say goodbye for the year to Australian Story and Enough Rope with Andrew Denton. Summer is coming and although I like cricket I suspect most of us will be heartily sick of the game and the intense coverage come the new year. Seven is telecasting the Australian Open golf this week. Will anyone watch?

Peter Fray

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