Sky News beefs up business coverage. Another update on the affairs at Sky News from its one-third owner, News Ltd, courtesy of this story in The Australian‘s Media section this morning. Sky News and Foxtel stories break quite often in both The Oz and the Daily Telegraph due to News Ltd’s ownership of Foxtel (25%), Sky News (33%) and Fox Sports/Premier Media (50%). Today’s story that Sky has recruited former Nine presenter Helen Dalley to spearhead an expansion of its business programming is interesting because it reflects the desire of Sky News chairman, Sam Chisholm, to get deeper into business reporting. Dalley and Chisholm were close when she was hired (with me back in 1986 to work on the idea that was Business Sunday). She’s an able reporter and host and will add something that Sky Business has been missing for sometime: credibility in the business world. The program has been produced on the cheap with young and not very knowledgeable reporters. The appointment several months ago of Helen McCombie, who was a reporter on Business Sunday and worked for a short while on the ABC Lateline Business, as Supervising Producer has added solid business experience. And Dalley’s appointment to host the Sunday Business (Business Sunday reversed!) is a good move which should add some more clout. But the program doesn’t have a lot of viewers; 17,000 average in the month from 11 February to 11 March this year according to figures from Fusion Strategy. — Glenn Dyer

And now a word from our sponsor. Legendary Dan Rather had some interesting comments about modern journalism at the South by South-West conference this week. Here are some choice quotes:

“In recent years, the nexus between powerful journalists and people of corporate power has become far too close.”

“What we need in journalism is a spine transplant.”

“A great deal of the time, a source is using the reporter, and vice versa. As soon as the source begins to feel the reporter can be pulled in and be part of the team, he’s gone too far.”

And the sign off…

“Listen, you’ve been a terrific audience, and if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tick off a few of my notes. First, a plug for HDTV, for whom I’m working now.”

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: For all the predictability there seemed to be about last night, it ended up with some intriguing strands emerging. House was the most watched program again with 1.486 million viewers. The storyline wasn’t convincing at all (the drug use) and the fat man’s medical case was also a bit OTT. McLeod’s Daughters jumped to 1.321 million, meaning relief all round at Nine. Seven News was next with 1.286 million viewers, then Police Files at 8pm for Seven with 1.263 million. Today Tonight was next with 1.257 million, having rebounded from its low of the night before. Nine News was next with 1.127 million, then Seven’s 7.30pm program, Serious Crash Unit, with 1.121 million. Spicks and Specks on the ABC at 8.30pm averaged a high 1.110 million, Seven’s 8.30pm program Heroes averaged 1.096 million and Nine’s Temptation won the 7pm battle with 1.082 million, thanks to the return of Tony Barber and Alyce Platt who showed Ed Phillips has a way to go (but not Lavinia Nixon who is improving). Barber and Platt hosted Sale of The Century and viewers remembered that. Nine’s A Current Affair averaged 1.076 million in 11th spot, Cold Case, at 8.30pm averaged 1.053 million for Nine, and Seven’s 7pm program, Home And Away averaged 1.030 million in 13th. It was the last program with a million or more viewers last night. Nine’s 9.30 program, Without A Trace averaged 981,000, Ten’s 9.30 program, Medium, 976,000, The Biggest Loser, a low 974,000, Prison Break (On The Run) 969,000, Extras on the ABC at 9pm, 872,000, Con Test on Ten at 7.30pm, 765,000, and good ole 24 on Seven at 10.30pm, 530,000.
The Losers: We know that 24 is a dog and so does Seven but there are half a million loyal viewers between 10.30 and 11.30pm. Prison Break at 9.30pm is a bit easier, Con Test is definitely waiting for the axe (although it still can be tarted up and used on a Friday night if they think about it), Extreme Makeover for Nine at 10.30pm or thereabouts, 506,000.
News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Melbourne. Seven News won by 159,000 viewers and 118,000 in Perth. TT reversed Tuesday night and won by 181,000 nationally with victories in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth and a close loss by 1,000 in Melbourne. Nine’s Nightline averaged 290,000. Ten News averaged 765,000,  the Late News/Sports Tonight averaged 450,000. The 7pm ABC news averaged  911,000, The 7.30 Report, 872,000. Lateline, 252,000, Lateline Business, 113,000. SBS News 6.30pm, 166,000; the 9.30 edition, 199,000, Dateline on SBS at 8.30pm averaged 226,000. 7am Sunrise, a low 377,000, 7am Today, a below normal 230,000. The Catch-up, Nine, 1pm, 163,000, beaten by Oprah on Ten, 223,000 and the Seven movie (189,000).
The Stats: Seven won with a share of 28.0% (28.6% a week ago), from Nine with 27.5% (27.7%), Ten with 23.9% (23.5%), the ABC, 16.6% (15.7%) and SBS with 4.0% (4.5%). Seven won Sydney and Perth and lost Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane to Nine. Seven leads the week 30.8% to 26.7% In regional areas a win for Nine with WIN/NBN on 32.0%, Prime/7Qld on 26.5%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 22.0%, the ABC with 14.8% and SBS with 4.7%. Seven also won the 6pm to 10.30pm zone one commercial battle from Nine and Ten.
Glenn Dyer’s comments: Spicks And Specks again showed the commercial networks what a well-made, well-cast program with some fun and energy can do in terms of ratings: beat the start of Heroes on Seven and Cold Case on Nine. Heroes though ran second to House and that’s what counts. McLeod’s was strong (no need for that extra money to stay in South Australia), from 8.30pm general weakness. Tonight it’s the footy shows north and south. Will Eddie appear in Melbourne and will the NRL program pick up its game this year after underperforming, especially in Brisbane last year? Seven has Lost (lost?), My Name is Earl, and Bones. Ten has Saving Babies and then two Law and Orders. Nine also has Missing Persons Unit but no RPA: half a million viewers are possibly free?

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Peter Fray
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