After several days of active pursuit by the likes of The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald, the grey suits running PBL Media buckled and fronted the press yesterday, a not so subtle sign of just who has the power.
CVC’s Adrian McKenzie and Nine’s Ian Law waved the white flag after several days of eager stalking, in particular by The Australian. Murdoch’s broadsheet even sent a reporter and photographer to McKenzie’s wife’s Sydney book shop, publishing a picture of an evidently flustered Mrs McKenzie pushing a pram through the streets of Double Bay.
It was an invasion of privacy the Murdochs would never have tolerated (witness the way Fairfax buckled to pressure over the Wendi Deng profile in the Good Weekend).
The last few days have been an object lesson to both McKenzie and Law about where the power lies in the Australian media, should the likes of News Ltd and Fairfax choose to exercise it.
So what did we learn from the interviews?
That the Nine Network, ACP Magazines and others will lose jobs from admin areas and back office — jobs Law should have already been cutting, not to mention the sluggish John Alexander, who is emerging as a dud manager of these assets for his failure to do the simple things of cost cutting and instead settling scores by sacking the content providers and generators.
Law says that all shows on Nine and magazines at ACP were under examination. Given that CVC and Law have been there since earlier this year, that’s a rather amazing admission: what have they been doing all this time? Cuddling with Messrs Packer and Alexander?
You would have thought they would have worked out the good and the bad over the past four months and be in a position to cut, kill and boost as soon as they took control.
McKenzie put seven years as the holding period for CVC: that’s unusually long and means 2014 would be the sell by date. Try 2012.
And, no-one seems to have asked the most important question: what happens at the end of 2008 when the agreement that requires Packer to hold a stake in PBL media expires?
Is there a further agreement that gives CVC the right to buy Packer’s remaining 25% stake. Is CVC interested in 100% ownership?
Finally, Nine will be moving from Willoughby and Richmond and, like Seven, will use the property developer profits to finance the digital conversion of the network.
That will cost $100 million according to Ian Law but that’s conservative: Seven says it has so far cost them about that but they are in the process of building a new digital centre in Adelaide, have Perth to do and there’s the question of Brisbane. Ten’s cost is around $100 million, if a bit more.