2006 has hardly been a banner year for women in commercial TV.

Yesterday, Seven’s Today Tonight host Naomi Robson fell on her microphone and announced she wouldn’t be back in 2007. Last Friday, the Ten Network flicked newsreader Tracey Spicer in a particularly churlish manner via email to her manager.

This follows the infamous “boning” comments about Today‘s Jessica Rowe and the undermining of Jana Wendt when she hosted the Sunday program for Nine. The network will be glad the TV spotlight has moved away from its on air personnel decisions.

Robson’s decision follows a difficult year which has featured enough instances of her lack of judgement for Seven management to lose confidence in her for next year, even though Today Tonight leads ACA by 166,000 viewers a night.

That figure is a bit misleading because it includes the usual 100,000 plus margin TT wins by in Perth most nights. The reality is that ACA has closed the gap significantly in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane where a discernible anti-Naomi factor appears a couple of nights a week. It’s not every night; on other nights TT wins handsomely but it has been enough for Seven management to worry about 2007.

Hence the lack of enthusiasm for re-signing her and her slow but steady recognition of that fact, which culminated with her announcement at the end of last night’s edition of the program.

Robson’s decision was preceded by a heads-up press notice from Seven late in the afternoon. Speculation has been growing that she will go because no one really wanted to sign a contract, despite claims that everyone wanted a deal. You could say that she is her own worst enemy and has shown a startling lack of recognition about how she’s seen by many viewers.

The Tracey Spicer flicking however was more of a surprise and rather crude.

At least Robson faced up to her fate and made the decision herself. Spicer was sacked via an email to her manager last Friday, who was told her contract would not be renewed past the end of next month. She returned from maternity leave after the early birth of her second child to read Ten’s new hour long morning news.

There’s talk of Ten’s freshening up its newsroom and newsreading look. Does that mean using younger female readers, of which there are plenty at Ten?

Spicer is 41, a cardinal sin it would seem at the network. But why when Ten claims to be broadening its appeal past the kiddies of the 16 to 39 age group, to an 18 to 49 demographic.

That’s not a good look. But they are only the two latest victims of network TV silliness when it comes to on air female presenters.

Ms Spicer’s lawyers yesterday served the Ten Network with a 10-page letter of demand, alleging breaches of the Federal Sex Discrimination Act and the Trade Practices Act.

She’s using the Sydney firm of Hillman Laxon Tobias — the firm Jana Wendt also used in her dealings with Nine.

Peter Fray

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