Lock up your turkeys. Network Ten starts Big Brother next week with over 17 hours of broadcasts in what can only be described as an orgy of overkill. But what will the housemates be competing for as Ten revealed yesterday that there will not be a cash prize (after a starting prize of $1 million last year) and no cars given away on their exit. The viewing audience will have the chance to vote two people from a pool of almost good enough candidates into the house (democracy?) and Ten has been running a competition with a candy company that will see a number of people with a key flown to the Gold Coast. One of the keys will fit a lock that gives them entry into the house. This series will be watched very, very closely by regulators, morals groups (such as Family First) and advertisers given the poor publicity last year and the equally appalling performances in the Celebrity BB in Britain. Ten has a lot riding on this, including the possible sale of the network. Ten wants a nice, safe and non-controversial start so intending buyers can see the revenue and earnings potential of what is the biggest and most expensive TV production in this country. From the relatively sedate 90 Minute (though it’s sure to run over) opening on Sunday night, to four hours on Friday, Ten will be back to back with the program many viewers have been waiting months to see and others having been hoping will be banned. The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s report on Big Brother and reality TV, started at the direction of the minister after the infamous “turkey slapping” incident in last year’s series, has gone to the Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan. It will be up to her when to release it. — Glenn Dyer

TVNZ poach ACA boss. The struggling New Zealand state owned TV network, TVNZ, has appointed Anthony Flannery, the managing editor of the Nine’s A Current Affair as its new head of news and current affairs. The appointment was revealed late yesterday and has received a sceptical reaction across the Tasman. Flannery will take up his new position next month. Before ACA, he was in charge of the Today show and before that he was executive producer of Nine News in Sydney. Nine has been suffering budget and staff cuts, especially in News and Current Affairs, for the past two years so Flannery will be going to TVNZ well versed in the old adage, doing more with less. TVNZ’s News and Current Affairs division has been hit by the loss of jobs and resources. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Seven’s Dancing With The Stars clobbered the opposition last night, recording its highest audience of the series so far and looks like it will break two million viewers for the remaining episodes. Dancing averaged 1.953 million viewers and dragged All Saints along in its wake with 1.603 million. Seven News was third with 1.563 million, then Today Tonight with 1.461 million and Home And Away with 1.232 million. Nine News was next with 1.231 million, followed by The Biggest Loser (1.186 million), A Current Affair (1.164 million) and the 7pm ABC News (1.108 million). NCIS had 1.087 million at 8.30pm, the new ep of The Simpsons averaged 1.067 million at 7.35pm and Temptation averaged 1.018 million. The second ep of The Simpsons averaged 1.016 million. Seven’s Crossing Jordan averaged 949,000 running after All Saints. Nine’s usual 8.35pm repeat of CSI averaged 886,000, the 20 to 1 repeat had 878,000 and I Shouldn’t be Alive averaged 756,000, beaten by Numb3rs on Ten at 9.30pm with 797,000.

The Losers: Once again Nine’s post 7pm schedule fell in a heap as the network conserved its ratings firepower against Dancing With The Stars which has recovered from the attack of boredom suffered by viewers during series five late last year.The ABC’s First Tuesday Book Club: the Bill Bryson interview, just 358,000 viewers braved it. Painting Australia at 8pm, 555,000; The Bill, 669,000. Both hit by Dancing’s popularity.

News & CA: Seven News and Today Tonight had big wins nationally and in every market for the second night in a row as Nine struggled to make any impression covering the Virginia shootings. Seven News and TT both won Sydney as Nine’s audience fell, especially ACA‘s which went under 300,000 in the market. Nine’s Nightline averaged 321,000. Ten News averaged 874,000; Late News/Sports Tonight, 404,000. The 7.30 Report was depressed by Dancing with just 731,000 viewers after the 7pm News had topped 1.1 million. Lateline averaged 241,000; Lateline Business, 145,000. SBS’s Insight, 241,000; SBS News, 181,000 at 6.30pm and 163,000 at 9.30pm. 7am Sunrise 428,000; 7am Today, 318,000, boosted by the One Day Cricket game between Australia and Sri Lanka from the World Cup.

The Stats: Seven won clearly by 14 points, with a share of 37.3% (35.8% a week ago), from Nine with 23.1% (21.8%), Ten with 21.8% (24.6%), the ABC with 13.4% (12.4%) and SBS with 4.4% (5.4%). Seven now leads with 30.7% to 26.4%. Seven won all five metro markets and also the regional battle where Prime/7Qld had a share of 35.2% to WIN/NBN with 25.7%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 22.4%, the ABC with 12.1% and SBS with 4.6%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: What a contrast the way Nine and Seven are covering the World Cup cricket. Nine is the Australian broadcaster and hasn’t sent anyone to the West Indies. Seven is there with a reporter, Nick Marshall-McCormack. Nine is covering the series from Sydney with Mark Taylor and Ian Healy topping and tailing the broadcasts and a sports reporter using vision from the game. Obviously Nine’s costs constraints means the network, which boasts of being the cricket network, couldn’t afford to spend the money to send someone. Why Nine and its near stablemate, Fox Sports, didn’t share the costs is odd, especially as Fox Sports has boosted its news presence. Tonight its McLeod’s Daughters (there’s a great review of the program to be found on the The Age website), Cold Case and Without A Trace. Ten has a new House, TBL, and a program at 9.30pm on organ donation, which is a good example of public service TV. Seven has a new program at 7.30pm called Last Chance Learners and Police Files at 8pm, then Heroes and Prison Break.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey