When Con asked Don to go the con. More juicy details emerging in the Conrad Black trial and an insight into high-end butt-covering. Concerned about shareholder anger ahead of a 2003 Hollinger meeting, then chairman and CEO Conrad Black phoned (or more precisely emailed) a friend, Donald Trump:

Dear Donald, Could I ask a rather esoteric favor?

Some of the institutions have been conducting an insurrection and I will forcefully rebut them on that occasion. They have undoubtedly tried to pack the room with complainants … If you were able to put in a cameo appearance and say a supportive word, I’m sure it would have an impact on the group and be favorably noted in the press. I realize you’re a busy man and have other things to do, but it could be a lively session…

Best wishes, Conrad.

Picture: New York Post

Trump, who’d signed a deal with Hollinger in 2001 to redevelop the Chicago Sun-Times building into a hotel and condominium tower, was happy to oblige. But there was a sticking point: he didn’t actually hold any Hollinger International shares or represent anyone who did — a requirement to speak at the meeting, reports The NY Post. “So Black had his staff, [including Paul Healy head of investor relations and now key government witness in the Black trial], scramble to get Trump a ‘proxy’ representing 100 shares.” And Don’s your uncle, Trump jumped up to the mic at the meeting, announced he was a shareholder and waxed lyrical about his “great respect for Conrad Black and for David Radler.” Nice words indeed but of little help. Shareholders maintained the rage — perhaps they simply found the Don’s endorsement a bit too esoteric. — Jane Nethercote

The APN vote is in … and as predicted, the institutions, led by Perputual, have voted down the proposed private equity takeover of APN this morning. On total shares the vote went 51-49 but a vote of 75-25 or better was needed for the deal to go through. And on individual shareholders the split was 80-20 in favour so most of the mums and dads were happy to take the cash even if the big instos weren’t. — Stephen Mayne

Mugabe comparison: a study in media bias? Fairfax and News offer a handy example this morning of how media outlets wear their ideological biases. The issue is the Amnesty International report released yesterday which mentioned John Howard’s government in the same breath as Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship. Fairfax chose to run with an AAP report which focuses almost exclusively on the report’s criticisms. “Prime Minister John Howard has robustly defended his government against claims by Amnesty International that it is as divisive as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s regime. The human rights pressure group has accused Mr Howard of portraying asylum-seekers as a threat to national security. In a report released overnight, it also criticised Australia’s role in the war on terror and its treatment of female victims of violence.” It goes on to quote Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan on ABC radio  yesterday criticising the government over its refugee deal with the US. “This is a desperate measure by two governments to cover up the fact that their offshore processing policy on refugees has basically failed,” she said. The Australian, via the News.com.au website, offers a more positive view of the report. It’s language is softer: “Shy on human rights” reads the headline, “inconsistent” on human rights reads the copy. And there is even space for some of the report’s good news. “Amnesty strongly praised Australia for shoring up regional security,” its second paragraph reads. Australia was also lauded for its work in regional security. Further:

…Australia should feel encouraged to export the “good parts” of its domestic institutions – rule of law, the office of ombudsman and the human rights commission were “remarkable institutions” worthy of more vigorous promotion in the Asia-Pacific region.

So who’s reporting the report most objectively? Find out for yourself here. — Thomas Hunter

Elliot Perlman joins the Random House stable. Last week, it was announced that Tim Winton has left long time publishers Pan Macmillan for Penguin. This week, Crikey has learnt that acclaimed Melbourne author Elliot Perlman,(Three Dollars, Seven Types of Ambiguity) is jumping from Picador to Random House. A spokesperson for Random House confirmed the news to Crikey this morning, saying that they were “delighted” to have the author on board. Nikki Christer recently left her role as publisher of the Picador imprint at Pan Macmillan to take up the position of Deputy Publishing Director at Random House, so it’s not a huge surprise that some authors are following her over. Just last week Random House announced that they will publish the next two books by Kathy Lette, whose most recent novel How to Kill Your Husband (And Other Handy Household Hints) was published by Simon & Schuster. Publisher of The Weekly Book Newsletter Andrew Wilkins told Crikey, “It’s part and parcel of the normal trading that goes on. What this does indicate is that while logos are important in the book publishing industry, the personal relationships are just as important.” — Sophie Black

BSkyB faces probe over ITV stake. Richard Branson and anyone else in the UK with an axe to grind against Rupert Murdoch have had a win. Britain’s Competition Commission is going to launch an investigation into the controversial move by Murdoch’s BSkyB to buy a 17.9% blocking stake in free-to-air broadcaster, ITV. Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry referred the case with the DTI Secretary of State, Alistair Darling, saying in a short statement: “On the basis of the evidence before me, a fuller investigation by the Competition Commission is justified.” BSkyB made the purchase last November, effectively blocking NTL — since relaunched as Virgin Media — from doing a deal with ITV. Branson’s Virgin Group is the largest single shareholder in NTL, which has been fighting with BSkyB about fees for Sky channels rebroadcast on NTL’s cable networks. NTL switched off the Sky channels amid great protest because it claimed the Murdoch company was trying to lift the fees unfairly. — Glenn Dyer

American Idol down but still the reality TV champ. The biggest reality TV program of them all, Fox’s American Idol, seems to be suffering the dreaded “ratings fatigue”, but the show’s latest finale was still watched by so many people that any network wouldn’t mind having to face that sort of problem. Early Nielsen figures show that 29.5 million people watched 17-year-old Jordin Sparks become the youngest winner in the program’s six year history. That was down 19% on last year’s final but will be adjusted upwards to take account of the late finish. Cunningly Fox allowed Idol to run nine minutes over (they do it there as well as here) to 10.09 pm eastern time on Wednesday night. According to US reports the winner was announced at 10.03pm. The audience was almost 7 million down on the 36.4 million people who watched Taylor Hicks win in 2006 and around 9 million down on the 2003 finale, which had the highest ever audience of more than 38 million.  Idol’s success in the back half of the US TV season (it starts in January) pushed Fox to a third consecutive ratings victory in the crucial 18-49 year-old demographic. With the US ratings season finishing this weekend, CBS is on track to win the overall ratings race and finish second among 18-49-year-olds. — Glenn Dyer

Correction of the day. An article yesterday, “Keating’s Unlikely House call”, incorrectly quoted the former prime minister Paul Keating as calling developers “nazis”. He had described them as “nasties”. — Sydney Morning Herald

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: A hard-fought draw between Seven and Nine on a night when Nine had been a consistent winner this year. Seven’s moving of Lost to 9.30pm in a shake-up that will settle down next week; paying off for the time being as it accounted for the first hour of the AFL and NRL Footy Shows. Seven News was again the most watched program with 1.461 million people, Today Tonight had 1.453 million and Nine’s RPA Where Are They Now program had 1.372 million at 8.30pm. My Name Is Earl, 8pm on Seven, averaged 1.372 million, Home And Away won the 7pm battle for Seven with 1.246 million; and Nine News had 1.212 million. Seven’s How I Met Your Mother at 7.30pm averaged 1.211 million. Getaway at 7.30pm on Nine averaged 1.168 million. A Current Affair had 1.160 million, Temptation at 7pm for Nine got 1.087 million and Lost averaged 1.059 million at 9.30pm for Seven. Law and Order, SVU averaged 1.044 million for Ten at 8.30 pm, the 7pm ABC News averaged 1.008 million and the second Law And Order, Criminal Intent, averaged 1.007 million and was the last program with a million or more viewers last night. Seven said it didn’t run a full network last night because the State of Origin on Wednesday night meant some programs (Heroes) went to air in some markets and not in others. The Amazing Race was pushed back to 10.30pm and averaged 757,000. Ten’s Jamie’s Chef averaged 843,000 at 7.30 pm.

The Losers: Nothing much in the way of outright losers last night. Inspector Rex on SBS at 7.30 averaged 404,000 for yet another repeat. What will disappoint Nine were the low figures for the NRL Footy Show in Sydney (204,000) and Brisbane, 113,000. Just no kick on from Wednesday night’s State of Origin and yet the program was full of highlights and chat. The AFL Footy Show was also off the pace, finishing out of the top 10 in Melbourne in 11th place with 356,000.

News & CA: Seven News and Today Tonight again won nationally and in every market bar Melbourne where Nine news and ACA were strong. Nine News and ACA were weak in Sydney last night, surprisingly so. Chris Bath on Seven has had a good first week in Sydney filling for Ian Ross. Ten News At Five averaged 831,000 viewers, the Late News and Sports Tonight averaged 409,000. The 7.30 Report averaged 870,000 people off the back of a strong news and Lateline averaged a high 306,000 and Lateline Business, 133,000. Night’s Nightline averaged 382,000 after the Footy Shows. World News Australia averaged 173,000 at 6.30 pm. The Catch-Up on Nine at 1 pm, 110,000. 7am Sunrise, up to 443,000, 7am Today 244,000.

The Stats: Seven and Nine drew 28.7% apiece after averaging 29.0% and 30.2% respectively last week. Ten was third with 21.6% (21.3), the ABC was on 16.7% (16.3%) and SBS was on 4.3% (5.1%). Seven won Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Nine won Melbourne and Adelaide. Nine leads 28.8% to 28.5%. In regional areas a win to WIN/NBN with 31.2% from Prime/7Qld with 28.4%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 20.7%, the ABC with 14.4% and SBS with 5.3%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Next week when Heroes is networked at 8.30pm and Lost at 9.30pm, we will get a better idea of if it will be a success. Lost’s move last night was and so long as its audience remains above a million viewers, the Footy Shows will struggle to match it. Nine should have a third series of Missing Persons Unit later this year, but that looks like being in the last quarter of ratings. Tonight its Seven’s AFL vs. Nine’s NRL games, with Seven news, TT and Better Homes and Gardens thrown in. Tomorrow night Ten has no AFL till late in Sydney and Brisbane because the game is Richmond vs. Essendon. Ten’s Sydney line-up looks like a combination of Tuesday night (NCIS repeat) and Thursday, Law And Order (SVU repeat). Seven has Australia vs. Wales in Rugby in some centres while Nine has Funniest Home Videos, Primeval and two movies. If Seven isn’t leading by much after tonight Nine could snatch a win. Sunday night is normal programming with Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty and Where Are They Now on Seven, vs. Big Brother and Rove on Ten; 60 Minutes, CSI etc on Nine and the very correct Robin Hood on the ABC. And Lisa Wilkinson starts with Today on Nine at 6am on Monday. Good luck.