Cross words over another howler. There was another howler in Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald quick crossword. The clue was eight across: “Rossini Opera” Five letters. Hmmmm Barber of Seville? Nope, William Tell, nope… think, think… couldn’t really see an answer until I started completing the rest of the clues and the letters ‘o’ and ‘c’ appeared. Dumbfounded because the most obvious answer was someone else’s work. Then yesterday, in the solution given on page 19, the answer was Tosca which is by Puccini. And there was a small apology tucked away at the end of yesterday’s clues. — Glenn Dyer

ABC in-fighting. Radio National’s Media Report, has unloaded on the ABC, its Queensland management and Spencer Howson, who hosts the breakfast program on ABC local radio in Brisbane. He filled in as the host of the QTQ 9 program Extra, which airs at 5.30pm in Brisbane, while the regular presenter was away last week. The Media Report’s Antony Funnell said: “Mr Howson wasn’t speaking there on the ABC, but on the Nine network. No, he hasn’t left the national broadcaster, ABC management entered into a special arrangement with Channel Nine whereby Mr Howson was allowed to fill in for a week as the presenter of their infotainment program, Extra. During his time at Nine, Howson also continued to do his regular breakfast shift at the ABC. Now not only did he fill the position, while compering the Channel Nine show, he wore an ABC shirt complete with ABC logo, and opened the program each night by saying he was from the national broadcaster. On top of that, the program also featured other staff members of 612 ABC Brisbane.” No-one from ABC in Brisbane or ABC Radio would talk to the Media Report to explain why they allowed the deal to happen. Funnell went on to say: “The issue here of course isn’t just about whether it’s appropriate for ABC staff to organise such an arrangement on a commercial television network, but whether by allowing Mr Howson to present a Channel Nine program, he and the ABC could be seen in the public’s eye to be endorsing Channel Nine and its content. And it’s worth pointing out that Extra isn’t a rigorous news program. The lines between genuine stories and commercial product endorsements are very blurry indeed.” — Glenn Dyer

People indifferent to Difference of Opinion. Difference of Opinion returned to ABC TV last night but were they just going through the motions with a debate on nuclear power? A mere 387,000 people watched as the program tried to grapple with the pros and cons of the issue but went nowhere. And what amazed me was that no-one, especially the anti-nukes, thought it relevant to raise the emerging scandal in Japan. The operators of the nuclear reactor which was forced to shutdown following a large earthquake this week have now admitted that it was not designed to withstand tremors of such force and might have been built directly above an active faultline. What sort of confidence does this give the proponents of nuclear power when one of the most experienced builders and operators of plants in the world can make such an elementary mistake? It would have been quite a telling point and helped to make Difference of Opinion more topical, giving it a bit of a lift. On last night’s evidence, it needs it. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Thursday night is Sea Patrol night and last night “It was a dark and stormy night” seemed to be the storyline. But viewers bit on the obvious storylines trailing behind the Hammersley and an average 1.798 million people watched. 14 programs with a million or more viewers on the night. Sea Patrol was tops with 1.798 million people. Getaway had a good night with 1.516 million. Seven News was 3rd with 1.398 million people, Today Tonight was fourth with 1.319 million and Seven’s That ’70s Show was 5th with 1.294 million people. Nine News was 6th with 1.181 million, Temptation was 7th with 1.153 million and A Current Affair was 8th with 1.139 million. Home And Away was 9th (and second at 7 pm) with 1.128 million and The Footy Show was 10th with 1.092 million. The 7pm ABC News was next with 1.052 million, Seven’s Lost was next with 1.040 million and the repeat of Law And Order Criminal Intent was 13th for Ten (and its highest rating program) with 1.024 million. Big Brother at 7pm was 14th and the last show in the club with 1.023 million. The 8.30pm fresh ep of Law And Order Criminal Intent averaged 921,000. Deal Or No Deal at 5.30pm on Seven, 892,000 and Rexy’s repeat on SBS, 453,000.
 
The Losers: The Poo’s Age of Love, How 888,000 people could watch that, I will never be able to understand. It was excruciating last night, even in fast forward. Pirate Master on Ten at 7.30pm, 622,000. It’s in the same class as Poor Poo’s program. The other loser was Nine’s Footy Show, rather the NRL Footy Show: 260,000 watched in Sydney and 105,000 watched in Brisbane. Both were beaten by Seven’s Lost with 279,000 in Sydney and 131,000 in Brisbane. Ten’s Law and Order 9.30pm Law and Order CI repeat actually won the timeslot in Sydney and Brisbane with 315,000 and 164,000 viewers respectively. The Footy Show only survives because of the popularity of the AFL version in Melbourne (with 40% of the audience last night). Nine pays millions a year for the NRL game rights on Friday night and Sunday afternoons and the Thursday night NRL program is a joke when compared with the AFL version.
 
News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Brisbane. Today Tonight won everywhere bar Melbourne. The 7.30 Report averaged 840,000, Lateline, 253,000 and Lateline Business, 133,000. No Nightline on Nine. It was Ralph TVed and golfed out.  Ten News At Five averaged 906,000, the Late News/Sports Tonight 434,000. World News Australia, 6.30pm, 184,000, 9.30pm, 170,000. 7am Sunrise down to 376,000, 7am Today, flat on 249,000. Seven’s 9am Morning Show, 179,000, KAK at 9am on Nine, 123,000, 9AM With David and Kim on Ten, 102,000.
 
The Stats:
Nine won with a share of 33.2% (30.5% a week ago), from Seven with 26.5% (25.7%), Ten with 20.1% (18.8%), the ABC with 13.9% (19.7%) and SBS with 6.2%). Nine won all five metro markets thanks to Sea Patrol. Seven leads the week 27.7% to 27.2%. In regional areas a similar result with WIN/NBN doing it for Nine with 32.8% from Prime/7Qld with 25.8%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 20.6%, the ABC with 13.3% and SBS with 7.5%.
 
Glenn Dyer’s comments: It’s interesting how our two most popular programs on TV at the moment, Border Security (half hour, Seven, Mondays at 7.30 pm) and Sea Patrol (Thursdays, Nine at 8.30pm) are both sponsored by insurance companies. GIO in the case of Border and NRMA in the case of Sea Patrol. NRMA is owned by IAG and GIO by Suncorp. Border Security has more viewers at the moment but its not a significant difference. Both insurers obviously like the association with programs telling a story about protecting Australia and its borders. Melodramatic perhaps but in John Howard’s Australia playing to the insecurities of the Australian populace has been the easy way to go. But last night on The 7.30 Report, Kerry O’Brien gave the PM a nice monstering over Peter Costello’s comments in that book, and the PM looked like he needed some Border Security or a Sea Patrol, anywhere but being in the Adelaide studio being belted by Red Kerry. But the interesting interview will be when Costello fronts Red Kerry or The Sphere of Influence on Nine. And, those rumours of a lightweight makeover of Sunday won’t go away. Anything more lightweight than the current hosts would put it into soufflé territory. How will Laurie Oakes’ set piece Sunday morning interview sit amongst entertainment and other frothy, Weekend Sunrise-imitating material? Tonight Seven’s combination of News, Today Tonight and Better Homes And Gardens, and the AFL in the south, will outweigh Nine’s NRL and more limited offerings. Tomorrow night, lineball. Australia plays NZ in Rugby union in a big decider from Auckland on Seven at 5.30 pm and on Pay TV. Nine has Dame Edna at 7.30pm, up against Dr Who, AFL and the Seven news and Comedy Classics. Sunday night it’s full on competition with Nine looking solid. Rove is in New York for Ten (so?) and Midsomer Murders worries everyone on the ABC at 8.30pm instead of the usual Friday nights. But Silent Witness is back tonight.

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