Board meetings at Free TV Australia, the industry lobby group for the commercial networks, are going to be interesting — and smaller — from now on.

Board membership has been a little unstable with Nine’s representative, Eddie McGuire, replaced by Jeff Browne. Sunraysia TV has gone, as will Southern Cross when it sells its regional TV business to Macquarie.

Bruce Gordon’s Win Corporation is much stronger after buying Nine in Perth and Adelaide. And NBN has gone, absorbed by PBL Media in the highest priced (in terms of earnings multiples) of all the deals so far.

Eddie McGuire’s departure from the board of FTA four months ago meant a new chairman had to be found, and it has reverted to the Seven Network’s David Leckie.

Relations between David Leckie and Ten’s Grant Blackley might not be all smooth sailing after a quote in the Fin Review on Monday. In a featurette about how Ten was travelling, Blackley let slip that Leckie had called and told him that former TV boss John McAlpine was coming back to be executive chairman of the network.

Ten says Blackley isn’t going and McAlpine is not returning, but the TV industry has heard rumours of that happening since Canwest failed to sell its stake in Ten and is now moving to take control. McAlpine is thought to be a favourite of Canwest, especially its lead director on the Ten board, Peter Viner.

Meanwhile the disappearance of Eddie McGuire helped produce last week’s announcement on an Electronic Program Guide for Free To Air TV in competition with Foxtel’s EPG, which is lacking the Seven and Ten signal.

Leckie’s return to the chairmanship of FTVA saw the EPG issue given a big push. Seven has just got into bed with the US TiVo group which makes PVR/DVR machines which can be programmed to record, skip or fast forward through ads, and will be programmable over the internet.

The Free TV industry will not be carrying the Foxtel signal.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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