Fielding weighs into reality TV debate. The Ten Network’s Big Brother will have a change of executive producer with news that the head of Endemol Southern Star, Chris Noble, is on sick leave and won’t be able to oversee the controversial reality program. That means there will be effectively two new senior producers overseeing the program as the head of development at Ten, Tim Clucas, is leaving the network. He had been deeply involved in BB from Ten’s end since it started. His replacement hasn’t been named by Ten while at Endemol Southern Star, producer, Tim Toni, is in the chair at the moment. At the same time there are reports that Ten has been “vigorous” in its discussions with Endemol Southern Star about the changes it wants to see in this year’s series. Ten is also attempting to head off any suggestion that the vetting of housemates might be relaxed by Endemol Southern Star to encourage some publicity, such as we saw with the appalling Celebrity Big Brother on Channel Four in the UK last month that proved a PR disaster. The discussions and the management changes (inadvertent as they are), come as the Australian Communications and Media Authority has posted around 180 submissions from parties responding to its wide ranging inquiry into reality TV. That is likely to start soon and be finished by April-June. Here are the submissions on the ACMA website. Many are from Christian groups, with the Family First Senator, Steve Fielding (the man who allowed the Coonan/Howard media law changes through) making a personal submission calling for reality TV to be controlled. Some in the TV industry say Fielding is doing the bidding of Prime Minister Howard, who wants Big Brother off our TV screens but doesn’t want to be seen doing it directly. — Glenn Dyer

Weekend Oz Magazine dips into the “honey-pot”. Could it be coincidence? A joke in bad taste, given the copy? An attractive, nameless woman with dark hair tumbling down her shoulders and around her bosom, about to spin the roulette wheel. The pic was chosen by The Weekend Australian Magazine (Feb 10-11) to illustrate its Time Capsule.

In this instance, the opening of Australia’s first legal casino, at Wrest Point in Hobart in 1971. The croupier in question is non other than Honey Bacon – then Honey Hogan – widow of Tasmanian Premier Jim Bacon. In the story, Drew Warne-Smith says Ron Hurley, the former assistant manager of London’s Playboy Club, had been lured to Tasmania to run the casino. He soon discovered that reservations ran deep among locals. “For many, a gambling den was destined to become a honey-pot for gangsters and working girls.” But the gangsters and hookers stayed away. “As somebody joked back then,” Hurley said, “there could never be any prostitutes in Hobart – because there were too many willing amateurs.” — Margaretta Pos (see clarification below)

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: Thursday night used to be Seven’s night when Lost was strong, but no more. Lost came back with the first fresh episode of the year and Seven lost by a surprisingly large margin. It’s not that Lost bombed (it still won its timeslot) but it’s now settling well down on those heady days of 2005 – no more two million audiences. RPA on Nine at 9.30pm was the top program with 1.551 million viewers, followed by Lost (1.312 million), Seven News (1.308 million) and Today Tonight (1.300 million). Nine’s Missing Persons Unit at 8.30pm averaged 1.295 million, then My Name Is Earl (1.137 million), A Current Affair (1.1 million and Nine News (1.090 million). Ten’s The Biggest Loser was next with 1.047 million (7pm to 8pm) and it beat Seven’s Home and Away with which finished under million (999,000). Splitting TBL and Home and Away was Nine’s Getaway with a weak 1.021 million. Law and Order fell to 989,000 for SVU and 980,000 for Criminal Intent. Ten’s new 8pm program, Saving Babies, averaged 980,000.

The Losers: Seven’s How I Met Your Mother, losing almost 200,000 viewers to 899,000 at 7.30pm. Could be bad news from viewers. Bones on Seven at 9.30pm, 733,000. It will be buried soon if life isn’t found. Bert’s Family Feud stuck on 514,000; Deal or No Deal, 762,000, down a touch on previous evenings. Some other programs are hovering: the two Law and Orders fell very sharply last night. If that continues it’s a big worry for Ten because apart from House they are the mainstay of its overseas drama inventory at the moment. The Home and Away loss was surprising and its numbers were a bit low. Neighbours was again weak on Ten (604,000).

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally by 218,000 as did TT by 200,000. Seven News won Sydney, lost Melbourne, won Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. TT won all five metro markets. Nine News and ACA fell under 300,000 viewers in Sydney. Ten News averaged 877,000 and the Late News/Sports Tonight, 470,000 around 10.30 pm. Nine’s Nightline 439,000 (big late evening audiences). The 7pm ABC News averaged 904,000, The 7.30 Report, 850,000 (watch Stateline in NSW tonight for the first debate between Premier and Opposition Leader for the March 24 poll). Lateline averaged 242,000, Lateline Business, 133,000. SBS News, 6.30pm, 178,000 (SBS’s highest rating program last night!); Late,156,000. In the mornings 7am Sunrise, 431,000; 7am Today, 261,000.

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 32.4% (32.3% a week ago) from Seven with 26.6% (25.5%), ten with 22.8% (24.8%), the ABC with 14.4% (13.5%) and SBS with 3.8% (3.7%). Nine won all five markets in a strong reply to Seven’s wins Monday-Wednesday. Nine leads 29.5% to 29.2%. In regional areas a win also for Nine with WIN/NBN on 33.7%, Prime/7Qld with 26.9%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 21.7%, the ABC with 13.8% and SBS with 3.9%

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Well, its a Medical Thursday: RPA on Nine and Saving Babies on Ten. Seven has All Saints. It’s the ABC’s turn. The weakness for both Ten and Seven last night (Law and Order x 2, Bones, Home and Away, How I Met Your Mother). A one-off they all hope, or, as Nine hopes, a sign of things to come. Well, just as Valentine’s Day dropped viewing Wednesday night, last night it was the hour long episode of The Biggest Loser which squashed Home and Away and How I Met Your Mother and Nine’s Temptation (865,000) and the front end of Getaway, which is struggling. But that didn’t explain the low numbers for Law and Order and Bones. So it’s down to tonight and tomorrow. Close, the ABC will complicate matters. Nine has another of its cut and paste jobs (a la 20 to 1) called Kings of Comedy. Video clips of funny blokes, introduced by a bloke. Women will watch Better Homes and Gardens on Seven and then there’s the political interview on Stateline in NSW. Seven has a repeat of The Great Outdoors at 6.30pm tomorrow night. A new timeslot for the dying favourite? And Sunday night will be the battle royal: Ugly Betty against 60 Minutes, Grey’s Anatomy against CSI: all new eps!

Drew Warne-Smith, journalist, The Weekend Australian Magazine, writes: Re. Honey Hogan in the Hobart honey-pot. Nothing more than a (somewhat) unfortunate and (highly) amusing coincidence, I’m afraid to say. I hadn’t seen the fetching piccie of the late premier’s would-be wife when I penned the piece, and apparently our picture editor only realised after we’d gone to print. It’s a bugger really, because I’d rather claim a crass joke…

Peter Fray

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