SBS Radio gets a shakeup. SBS CEO, Shaun Brown, has restructured the service’s radio division – moving to a structure of four people reporting to the head of radio, who is now Paula Masselos, and getting rid of the station managers in Sydney and Melbourne in the process. SBS radio is presently talking to listeners at public forums around the country about the future direction of the division, so it seems just a little odd that the restructure would take place now. The restructure was released internally last Friday and is labelled Phase One with four new positions created: covering content, business affairs, digital and quality and standards. SBS insiders say that only one, perhaps two, of the existing senior executives will get new gigs. The digital role could go to Anne Edwards, who runs the Digital Content unit in SBS Radio. SBS management have engaged consultants to go through SBS Radio and look at where costs may be cut, work practices improved and the service’s output boosted. Masselos has been told by Shaun Brown to lift ratings, revenue and make radio more efficient, but as she doesn’t have any hands on experience in radio, that could be a big ask. And that’s not just her problem – the SBS board has no one with any significant radio experience at all (especially at the management level) and yet radio is where the service reaches all the ethnic groups it was set up to serve by Malcolm Fraser back in the late 70s. The new position for a Radio Content Manager has such a range of functions and duties that division staff are already asking, if they find the right person for it, with radio experience, will there be a role for Masselos at SBS Radio?

Sarah Murdoch ready to sign off from Today. The best you can say about Sarah Murdoch’s stint at the Today show is that she didn’t frighten viewers or antagonise them like her predecessor, Jessica Rowe, did with her annoying giggles. But over the past week or so there’s been a sense from audience numbers that she was wearing out her long welcome, so yesterday it was announced in one of the Murdoch family’s staff journals that she was departing on 30 March. Murdoch’s replacement will be newsreader, Kellie Connolly, until May when Rowe is expected to return to the chair next to Karl Stefanovic. Today‘s audience hasn’t got near the 315,000 for Murdoch’s first day back in December, except on one occasion which was more to do with a news story than people tuning in. Viewing numbers were in the 250,000 to 280,000 range through January, February and into early March, which represented a lift on the last months of Rowe’s stint. But about ten days ago the numbers started easing, falling below 220,000. Sunrise‘s audience figures on Seven have also been soft and last Friday fell to 376,000, the lowest they have been for months. Today‘s audience was 242,000 from 7am. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings

The Winners: Monday night and Seven returned to the top of the pecking order, but not without some interesting developments elsewhere in the day. Ten’s The Biggest Loser and Bondi Rescue had their best night this year; Seven’s Sunrise had its lowest audience for months; The ABC’s Difference of Opinion languishes, holding back Media Watch; What’s Good For You is struggling for Nine at 7.30pm but still alive; and Eddie was up a tick. Desperate Housewives was tops with 1.563 million, Seven News was second with 1.421 million, followed by 1 vs 100 (1.382 million) and Today Tonight (1.331 million). The elimination ep of The Biggest Loser averaged 1.289 million from 7pm, Bondi Rescue had 1.269 million from 8pm and Nine News was next with 1.245 million. A Current Affair had 1.220 million, Seven’s 9.30pm soap, Brothers and Sisters, 1.160 million, The Rich List averaged 1.159 million and Home and Away had 1.092 million. CSI New York averaged 1.077 million and What’s Good For You averaged 1.046 million. That was better than a week ago but nowhere near the levels achieved last year.

The Losers: What’s Good For You needs something to perk itself up but it’s not in the recipe so far on screen. Supernatural would have been a worry for Ten on last night’s performance after the strength of TBL and BR. Difference of Opinion is boring for Australia, even though the topics are solid and some of the talent are interesting. Studio talk drives viewers away after a while.

News & CA: Seven News won nationally by 176,000 and by 146,000 in Perth. Seven won Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Nine won Melbourne. Today Tonight won by 111,000 nationally and 127,000 in Perth. TT won Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. ACA won Brisbane and Adelaide. No Nightline on Nine because of the World Swimming Titles coverage. Ten News averaged 831,000; The 7pm ABC News averaged 979,000, The 7.30 Report, 839,000, Lateline 222,000. SBS News averaged 189,000 at 6.30pm and 177,000 for the half hour from 9.30pm. Early Sunrise down to 369,000 the lowest for some time, Today up to 280,000. A closing burst for the departing Sarah Murdoch or daylight saving? Four Corners averaged 653,000, Media Watch, 581,000.

The Stats: Seven won with 31.3% (31.2% last week) with Nine on 27.0% (27.3%), Ten with 21.5% (21.0%), the ABC unchanged on 13.6% and SBS on 6.6% (6.8%). Seven now leads the week 29.2% to 28.3%. Seven won all five metro markets but in regional areas Nine won with WIN/NBN with a share of 29.1% with Prime/7Qld on 28.6%, Southern Cross on 20.5% for Ten, the ABC on 13.4% and SBS with 8.5%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: The program to impress last night was Bondi Rescue. A drowning death on the beach in January was sensitively covered and integrated into the storyline. It was a bit more realistic, in fact far more so, than some of the other observational docos. The program deserved its best ever figures last night. The Biggest Loser and Bondi Rescue meant Ten won the 7 to 8.30pm period. A program like Bondi Rescue would have lifted Nine’s night. The irony is that the program came to Ten after a suggestion by former Nine CEO, David Gyngell, after he walked because of interference from head office. Tonight it’s Dancing with the Stars and All Saints on Seven and not much else. NCIS on Ten, TBL, also on Ten, the CWA doco, Not All Tea And Scones, on the ABC. Nine is running dead tonight; the programming budget just doesn’t justify having a go tonight. That’s a pity. Dancing is down to 90 minutes, All Saints starts at 9pm and Crossing Jordan returns at 10pm to Seven.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey