What are a few airfares between friends when you are spending $136 million to buy the dodgiest asset in Australian TV?

Good question, and one that reveals that James Packer’s PBL Media has a very funny order of priorities.

It’s proposing to pay $136 million for the underperforming Perth affiliate STW 9, owned by Sunraysia TV to get rid of the lazy and unprofitable management of Eva Presser and her STV company.

And yet Perth is being convulsed by the biggest political crisis to hit any Australian government for 20 years or more and Nine has yet to show any sort of coverage in the eastern states. Not a word from the Network’s flagship programs, Sunday and 60 Minutes.

The joke around Sunday is that the program’s costs have been cut so deeply that they can’t afford the price of a plane fare to Perth. That might be a tall story but the program doesn’t really have any capacity to cover a story like the dismemberment of the Carpenter ALP Government in WA.

60 Minutes does and it has a reporter, Liam Bartlett, who knows the city and probably the story backwards: he was a top rating radio host in the city before joining 60 Minutes last year.

The ABC is also struggling: The 7.30 Report has carried sporadic and hard to fathom reports, PM on ABC Radio has done well but Four Corners is so far missing in action. It’s not that the story is new; it was around late last year and there are a whole collection of side stories emerging.

Of the print media, The Australian has been all over the story, especially today: the AFR has had limited but tolerable coverage while the Sydney Morning Herald has drifted in and out.

For all bar The Australian and PM (and AM at times), the story isn’t national, there’s no easy tag like WA Inc (the 80s scandal involving Bond, Rothwells, Burke, Dowding and a cast of others)

For PBL Media it’s a unique chance to prove its journalistic credentials. Despite the cost.

Peter Fray

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