Mitchell says commercial TV industry needs more help. Media buyer Harold Mitchell dominates the local TV and advertising industries in many ways; so much so that some times others in the industry take his words as gospel and don’t subject them to any hard-edged analysis. Take a speech he is making today on the Gold Coast at the SPAA (Screen Producers Association of Australia) annual conference in Australia. It was handily given to The Age to trot out his lame call for more Government aid for the commercial TV industry by cutting licence fees. So Harold Mitchell wants the taxpayers of Australia to help some of the richest people in Australia and in Canada make more money. His logic seems very odd. TV networks already raid the public purse for help: Ten and Nine are assiduous users of the funding made through the FFC. Note that Nine’s new headline drama for 2007, Sea Patrol, has already got taxpayer funding from the FFC. And then there’s the matter of return on assets: it is low because earnings at Ten and Nine have dropped but all three carry huge asset values on their balance sheets for the value of their TV licences. These high valuations are intangible assets and have nothing to do with reality. They are at such high levels to justify supporting corporate debt and other borrowings by the groups and for past history. And what is the difference between this special interest pleading (on behalf of the people he does business with) and that of manufacturers or Telstra complaining about imports and unfair competition overseas, or trying to restrict competition here? The Age quite rightly objects to those sorts of deals, so why not Harold Mitchell’s? And lastly there is a conflict of interest here: if the TV networks have more money to pay for more drama, Mitchell can sell more ads on behalf of his clients and make more money. — Glenn Dyer

Nine changes tack for ACA and Today. Instead of using Karl Stefanovic as the summer host of A Current Affair as originally suggested, Leila McKinnon will be standing in for Tracy Grimshaw over the Christmas-New Year break. Grimshaw is hosting ACA all the way to Christmas, unlike last year when the program went on holidays, and Nine says Grimshaw will return to host the program in 2007. Which would mean Stefanovic will return to host Today with whoever gets the gig for the three months left on Jessica Rowe’s maternity leave. Sarah Murdoch will fill in from Christmas Day (a Monday) for a month into the New Year with Richard Wilkins, an appointment seen as “inspired” by some at the network but as a “waste” by others who would have used the month as a means of auditioning possible candidates to replace Rowe. What the Murdoch appointment means (unless she gets the gig permanently) is that Nine will have three female presenters (at least) for Today in 2007: Murdoch, the stand-in for Rowe, and Rowe if and when she returns. Now that will confuse viewers already jaundiced about the program. In contrast Seven will keep David Koch and Mel Doyle going for most of the summer break. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: Dancing with the Stars was the most watched program last night with 1.705 million viewers, with All Saints next with 1.454 million, then Today Tonight with 1.446 million, Home and Away with 1.435 million, Seven News with 1.347 million, Nine News with 1.301 million, CSI (repeat) with 1.286 million, 20 to 1, 1.255 million, A Current Affair with 1.235 million, and Temptation with 1.159 million. The Tuesday Simpsons, 999,000, Nine’s The Closer, 953,000, The OC, 781,000, The Bill, 822,000.

The Losers: The Wedge, (Ten,8pm) 648,000, Commander In Chief, Seven, 301,000 at 11 pm; both disappointing. Crossing Jordan, Seven, 10 pm 775,000.

News & CA: Seven News beat Nine thanks to the Perth margin. Seven News won by 46,000 viewers nationally and 98,000 in Perth. Seven won Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. Nine won Melbourne and Brisbane. Today Tonight won by 211,000 nationally and 115,000 in Perth. TT won Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Ten News at Five averaged 841,000, the 7pm ABC News, 967,000, The 7.30 Report, 671,000. Today (266,000)was beaten by both Early Sunrise (271,000) and regular Sunrise from 7 am (427,000). Early Today, 136,000.

The Stats: Seven with 33.6% (34.6% last week) from Nine with 28.7% (27.9%), Ten with 20.1% (18.4%), the ABC with 13.2% (15.1%) and SBS with 4.5% (6.0%). Seven won Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Nine won Brisbane Nine leads the week 28.8% to 27.7%. In regional areas, Prime/&Qld won with 33.0% from WIN/NBN with 30.9%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 19.7%, the ABC with 11.8% and SBS with 4.6%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Dancing steady, Seven happy; Nine happy on tough night, Ten better. No Rove Live for obvious reasons. Best of the Melbourne Comedy Festival averaged 745,000. Tonight House is back for Ten at 7.30pm, Nine has McLeod’s Daughters in the same slot, then CSI Miami and then ER. Seven has Border Security at 7.30pm. then Police Files and then Criminal Minds at 8.30 pm but The Unit at 9.30pm is fading. The ABC has The New Inventors, Spicks and Specks and then a repeat of Ab Fab and The Glass House at 9.30pm. The big question: How will Tripping Over go at 8.30pm on Ten?

Peter Fray

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