Disembodied media criticism from The Age. Journalists like nothing more than reading about themselves. This obsessive-compulsive appetite was partially sated on Saturday when The Age began a new weekly column on the back page of the features section called “Media Matters”. It had a dinkus (logo) of chattering teeth, a Tandberg cartoon of Rupert Murdoch and Andrew Bolt, three insipid items taking the mickey out of News Ltd (spelt out in non-house style as “Limited”) journalists (nothing new there) and, shock/horror – no byline. Who, what, when, where and why? Does this mean that the column was penned by editor-in-chief Andrew Jaspan? Or was the byline dropped when the fourth item (perhaps critical of a Fairfax Media journalist to balance the content) was spiked? The Tandberg was floating in a sea of white space at the end of the column as if to indicate the latter. In the place where the byline should have been, underneath the dinkus, was the curious request to “contact [email protected]“. Why would you do that to a newspaper about newspapers? What’s the story? — Terry Maher

Nine prepares to Catch Up. The Catch Up starts today on the Nine Network just before Crikey hits your inboxes. It’s an ambitious program from Nine and Mia Freedman, the network’s “Creative Services Director” – her reputation hangs in the balance. It will have to get around 130,000-150,000 plus on average most days to qualify as any sort of success. The Young And The Restless, the program Nine flicked to allow The Catch Up to happen, averaged 204,000 viewers on Friday in its last ep on Nine. The panel consists of Libby Gorr, Lisa Oldfield, Mary Moody and Zoe Sheridan. Freedman is back-up gabster. — Glenn Dyer

Talent relations conflicts looming for Eddie? TV folk are fascinated by the return of former Nine publicist, Heidi Virtue, as Director of Publicity & Talent Relations for the network. She starts on 26 March. “Heidi’s appointment signals a return to Nine after three years. She was most recently Publicity Consultant at Foxtel and before that she was Public Relations Manager for Collette Dinnigan. Heidi has an extensive understanding not only of publicity for TV but also specifically of the Nine Network. Heidi will report to Nine Network CEO Eddie McGuire,” the statement said. But those with a knowledge of Nine and ACP Magazines are wondering who will win between Nine’s Creative Services Director and Director of Publicity and Talent Relations. It’s the talent relations part of Heidi’s remit that has got insiders wondering, because it’s a part of the role Mia Freedman is in the process of creating for herself. She has been dealing extensively with on-air talent in grooming, hair, clothing, colours, makeup, etc etc. As both report to Eddie he could have some very tricky situations to sort out: not to mention the swinging attack on budgets at Nine which has severely limited the opportunity for talent relations and creative services. Heidi’s new role is the sort of portfolio that two well known predecessors at Nine had: Sue Ward and Vicki Jones. — Glenn Dyer

Are YouTube videos fair game for TV networks? Something that popped up on Nine’s Today show has raised eyebrows in TV land. Last week the fill-in sports presenter, Tony Jones, played a YouTube clip of an autistic basketballer in the United States who was caught on video shooting six goals in a row. It originally went to air about a year ago and was popular on all the news services because of its good news element. Now an informant says the YouTube clip is actually the entire CBS News report. Nine no longer has any rights to the material (it did when it went to air last year) so does that mean Nine will pay CBS or Ten, which has the CBS news rights in Australia? But this raises another question: can any TV channel re-air any content as long as someone posted it on YouTube, even though it’s someone else’s material? If you look closely at the clip, the CBS on air “watermark” is in the lower left corner. — Glenn Dyer

Seven dominates week two of official ratings. A near five point win to the Seven Network in the second week of the 2007 ratings battle. Seven has now won the first two weeks of the official ratings contest and has a good chance of repeating the dose this week. Seven won with a share of 31.0% from Nine with 26.2%, Ten with 20.8%, the ABC with 16.4% and SBS with 5.6%. Seven won six nights (Nine only won Thursday night) and all five metro markets. Ugly Betty with more than two million viewers, Dancing With The Stars with 1.8 million, Grey’s Anatomy with 1.7 million and Australia’s Got Talent with 1.6 million people, were the standouts for Seven. Nine got a taste of what lies ahead in winter when the first AFL game on Seven for more than five years, the NAB Cup game between Collingwood and the Kangaroos averaged 326,000 people in Melbourne on Friday night, the second biggest audience of the night after the 354,000 for Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens at 7.30pm. Seven News and Today Tonight won the 6pm to 7pm news and current affairs battle, despite TT‘s venture into fairytales on Tuesday evening with the “woman in chains” story. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: The Ten Network has a problem on Sunday nights and until it can marshall some firepower it is going to be in danger of running a permanent fourth behind Seven, Nine and the ABC. Seven’s Ugly Betty won the 7.30pm timeslot, polishing off 60 Minutes but with a 180,000 viewer drop in its audience. Still a 1.851 million audience isn’t to be sneezed at. Grey’s Anatomy averaged 1.730 million at 8.30pm, up slightly on the week before. Seven News averaged 1.419 million and Australia’s Got Talent at 6.30pm fell to 1.391 million from the 1.62 million of the previous Sunday. Nine’s CSI was next (1.379 million), followed by CSI Miami which returned at 9.30pm (1.211 million – down on the audience for the CSI repeat a week ago). 60 Minutes had 1.159 million, then Nine News (1.157 million), Nine’s 20 to 1 at 6.30pm (1.142 million) and Planet Earth on the ABC at 7.30pm (1.117 million). Foyle’s War at 8.30pm averaged 1.114 million for the last ep and the 7pm ABC News averaged 1.092 million. The Biggest Loser averaged 1.034 million, which was higher than last week and the only thing Ten could smile about.

The Losers: Ten’s lineup again. Apart from The Biggest Loser, nothing stands out. Celebrity Dog School was average at 6.30pm with 545,000. Ten should get the NAB Cup played on Sunday nights: the afternoon game averaged 553,000 viewers (more than the dog show!). Ten is suffering because Seven has something to watch on Sunday nights and viewers are moving from Ten in the 16 to 39 and 18 to 49 age groups.

News & CA: Seven News won nationally by 262,000. Nine News had a big win in Sydney, Seven had a big win in Melbourne and won Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. The 7pm ABC News was strong with more than a million viewers while Ten News averaged 632,000 going to air at 6pm because of the AFL in the afternoon. In the morning Weekend Sunrise won with 475,000 (quite high). The ABC’s Landline at midday averaged 278,000, Sunday 219,000 but the ABC’s Insiders at 9am fell to 120,000, Inside Business lost ground to just 77,000 and Offsiders at 10.30am, averaged 80,000. Meet the Press on Ten rose to 61,000 at 8am.

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 32.1% (33.3% a week ago) from Nine with 27.3% (26.2%), the ABC on 19.8% (18.5%) and Ten on 17.2% (16.8%). SBS was on 3.6% (5.3%). Seven won Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Nine won Adelaide. The regional ratings were not available.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Quite a few points from last night. Ugly Betty is still very pretty for Seven, as is Grey’s, the News and the talent program. Nine did a bit better – 60 Minutes went the tacky route while Planet Earth and Foyle’s War on the ABC had bigger audience gains by old fashioned methods: entertainment. Who knows how many viewers were put off 60 Minutes by the Lisa Robertson interview? Next Sunday night quite a few older viewers will become available because the ABC is screening a Kylie Minogue special at that time. Foyle’s War, which finished up last night, had a high viewing level in older demographics. That should help Nine and CSI more than Seven or Ten. The AFL is already having an impact for Seven: Friday night saw a big win in Melbourne. Nine in Sydney and Brisbane can’t wait until the NRL season starts next month. Seven is dominating Sunday morning chat and current affairs with Weekend Sunrise. Ten can only sit and wait. But how long before surgery is needed on Sunday evenings? Tonight it’s Desperate Housewives on Seven after The Rich List and then Brothers and Sisters. Media Watch returns on the ABC after Four Corners. Ten has The Biggest Loser and Bondi Rescue. Nine has the Oscars from 7.30pm with the Red Carpet and then the delayed awards ceremony from 8pm. It’s been declining in audience size in recent years as more and the results are known by the news broadcasts at 6pm. It goes for three hours. Can we last the distance?

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey