SBS goes (even more) commercial. Not only is SBS news and Current Affairs management trying to “brighten up” Dateline as revealed by the Australian’s Media section today, but there are also suggestions of rising commercialism in SBS radio. There are reports that some of the people who do the specialist programs in languages such as Italian, Greek, Spanish, German etc are being encouraged to “endorse” products in the news segments of their broadcasts. It’s all a bit imprecise: there is no actual directive, it’s more an informal encouragement for this product endorsement (presumably for money). Is that cash for comment, if true? Meanwhile, the same Paul Cutler who wants Dateline to have more light and shade is the same person who removed respected producer, Martin Butler, a couple of weeks ago. Having looked at Dateline last night the John Martinkus report from Southern Afghanistan needed no light or shade. It was informative, well made and well reported: it was a classy piece of TV current affairs, far better than anything else on TV from overseas this week. Is that what Mr Cutler doesn’t want to see in Dateline and instead reports on more lightweight subjects? We already have programs like that in 60 Minutes, A Current Affair and Today Tonight. Finally his call for more “high profile talent” for host George Negus to interview (and profiles of people “making a difference”) indicates a radical change in approach. All this presupposes that high profile people and people making a difference would want to be interviewed by Mr Negus or profiled by Dateline. Does SBS management want Dateline to resemble Foreign Correspondent on the ABC on Tuesday nights? I would argue its strengths were well illustrated last night. Or is the real agenda here that it is harder to sell advertising for programs like Dateline in its current make-up and direction and to broaden the appeal by introducing light and shade will mean the pool of potential advertisers is expanded. They will deny this, but how about a rational, as opposed to a corporate explanation? — Glenn Dyer

News caption of the week.

As seen on The SMH website:

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: A win to Seven last night, despite losing three of the five major metro markets. A total of 15 programs with a million or more viewers, led by House on Ten with 1.463 million. Seven News was second with 1.396 million, Police Files Unlocked at 8pm was third for Seven with 1.368 million, Today Tonight was fourth with 1.282 million, Nine News was fifth with 1.225 million and McLeod’s Daughters was sixth with 1.213 million and its best effort of the year so far. Seven’s 8.30 pm program Heroes averaged 1.180 million (its soft), A Current Affair was eighth with 1.179 million and Seven’s Serious Crash Unit was ninth with 1.175 million at the new time of 7.30pm. Nine’s Without A Trace averaged 1.108 million and likewise Cold Case on Nine at 8.30pm with 1.095 million. Seven’s Home and Away averaged 1.089 million at 7pm, just ahead of Ten’s The Biggest Loser with 1.034 million. The 7pm ABC News averaged 1.033 million and Spicks and Specks on the ABC at 8.30pm averaged 1.003 in 15th slot. Seven’s Prison Break – On the Run averaged 966,000 at 9.30pm, Ten’s Medium, 956,000 in the same slot (both beaten by Nine’s Without A Trace). Temptation was down to 904,000 at 7pm for Nine because of the battle between Ten and Seven. Ten’s The Con Test at 7.30pm averaged 775,000 (Some interesting and hard questions but the format is just bad). Extras on the ABC averaged 703,000 (many of whom should have been Logie attendees from TV land) and The Worst Week of My Life is still the most excruciating show on TV at 9.30pm with 563,000. This is a plot to make us appreciate The Chaser gang when it comes back.

The Losers: The Con Test, but it’s going. Ten could repair it with some work: isolating each contestant like The Rich List on Seven, giving each contestant one other score but not their own and having it run on the screen permanently, or using worm technology from the political debates to tell whether a person is fibbing or not. The Catch Up jumped to 198,000 thanks to the publicity about Lisa Oldfield’s drug habits as a youngster and the interview with Judy Moran where she breached Victorian Supreme Court suppression orders. The reason why the program is in the Losers list is that viewers are the losers because they are now being fed salacious rubbish obviously intended to get people watching. That is happening wittingly or unwittingly. The producers should look at the rave Mel Doyle had with other women after 8.15pm on Seven’s Sunrise this morning to see how it is done.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Melbourne this time. Today Tonight won everywhere bar Brisbane and Adelaide. Seven News won by 171,000 nationally and 97,000 in Perth. TT won by 103,000 and 86,000 in Perth. ABC News at over a million helped The 7.30 Report with 899,000. Lateline averaged 255,000. Ten News averaged a very solid 908,000, Late News/Sports Tonight 435,000 around 10.30 pm. Nine’s Nightline 340,000 an hour later. SBS News, 156,000 (still not a warm looking couple, Stan and Mary), 250,000 for the 9.30 edition after Dateline with 238,000 and a very good report from John Martinkus on South Afghanistan. 7am Sunrise, 406,000, 7am Today 240,000. Finally, a word about something brave and brilliant on Seven News: the efforts of their stringer cameraman in the Indonesian air crash yesterday was simply awe-inspiring. To continue shooting pictures after escaping the disaster was bravery of the highest order. The shots went around the world and came back to other networks here, such as Nine. Seven pooled with the ABC but don’t you think the ABC could have given the cameraman and Seven some credit in the 7pm news that I saw in Sydney… no. It was churlish. There could have been at least an on-air acknowledgement of the cameraman, Wayan Sukarda. Didn’t the ABC want the fact that it was pooling vision with Seven acknowledged?

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 28.6% (29,7% a week earlier); from Nine with 27.7% (27.0%), Ten with 23.5% (23.2%), the ABC with 15.7% (15.8%) and SBS with 4.5% (4.4%). Seven leads the week 31.8% to 28.4%. Seven won Sydney and Perth by decent margins and Nine won Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide and still lost. In regional areas Nine won through WIN?NBN with 28.9% from Prime/7Qld with 27.7%, Southern Cross (Ten) 22.6%, the ABC with 16.0% and SBS with 4.8%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Did House “jump the shark” last night with the introduction of an antagonist character to bounce off the good doctor? Having watch most of the ep, it seems to be too contrived. Have the writers and producers run out of story ideas? Stay tuned, as they say the plots could get a little hairy if last night is any guide. Extras was very good. Can anyone in TV who watched it last night ever attend the Logies again and keep a straight face? Spicks and Specks seemed OK… no wonder Adam Hills will host the Logies. Eddie McGuire had better watch himself. Hills could make 1 vs 100 interesting and cheeky. Missed Heroes, as did quite a few other viewers who also have tired of Cold Case, not to mention Prison Break on Seven. Nine got close because Seven rested Border Security after running four re-cut cap eps of last year. It had been the top program on Wednesday nights in the past couple of weeks. It will be back after Easter. Tonight Nine has the last ep of the current series of RPA, to be replaced next week by Footy Shows, so female viewers can move elsewhere. Nine also has Missing Persons Unit. Lost is on Seven and the underperforming Bones. My Name Is Earl as well at 8pm. Ten has The Biggest Loser, Saving Babies, Law and Order SVU and CI and that’s it. The ABC has… not much. SBS has a repeat of Rex.