The Clayton’s head of the Nine Network, Jeff Browne, is famous for having described network TV as a “bucketful of contracts”.

He is about to find out that running a TV network also requires backbone and a bit of guts, perhaps even sufficient strength of character to stand up to a monstering from the Prime Minister’s department.

Crikey last week broke the story of the Work Choices sequence from Nine’s Wednesday evening drama, McLeod’s Daughters (watch the offending scene here). A young mechanic is given the choice of a new agreement and a pay cut, or no job at all.

It delighted those opposed to WorkChoices and upset the Federal Government, including the Minister responsible, Joe Hockey and Prime Minister John Howard.

According to a Nine insider, Mr Howard’s department contacted the network to complain. And, according to the Nine source, Jeff Browne scheduled a meeting for this morning with Nine’s head of drama, Jo Horsburgh.

She will be asked to explain the McLeod’s AWA sequence. Which comes a bit late. But more worryingly, it’s a reactive flop to a bit of political pressure.

If nothing else the story shows just how paranoid the Prime Minister has become about WorkChoices and how little backbone there is in some parts of the media.

Crikey contacted both the offices of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, for comment on the matter. No response was received by deadline, although, interestingly, the PM’s office said the issue would be referred to his principal media adviser, Tony O’Leary.

And why was Nine so quick to buckle to what appears to be political pressure? After all the Howard Government has given more to the Packer Empire than any other media group in its latest media reforms.

Is this reaction to the McLeod’s story all part of the quid pro quo?