Aunty serves it up to the government over TV production funding changes. The ABC last night gave it to the Federal Government with both barrels over the proposed changes to funding for TV production contained in the May Federal Budget. The budget revealed that the Film Finance Corporation (FFC), the Australian Film Commission (AFC) and Film Australia (FA) would merge to form the Australian Screen Authority (ASA). The boss of the ASA hasn’t been announced but Daryl Karp from Film Australia won’t be it. Film Australia has had an acting head, leaving the FFC’s Brian Rosen, as the most likely candidate for the newly merged role. The financing of film and TV productions will change with the new authority from the 2008-09 year. The FFC board is meeting today to look at approving a host of productions under the old rules to ensure continuity during the merge process over the 2008 financial year. The basic funding mechanism will be a 20% rebate but industry people say that this is based on productions having a $600,000 an hour budget, which is way too high for the ABC and commercial TV. ACMA’s Australian content system requires Australian drama productions, for example, to have a minimum budget of around $400,000 and the $600,000 an hour (an ep really) budget is at the high end of cost. By setting the budget so high, the ABC and commercial TV companies, and independent producers fear that many new productions would be priced out of the market. Hence the short, sharp speech from Kim Dalton at last night’s get together in Sydney. The presence of Mark Scott, ABC’s managing director, in the audience, gave Dalton’s comments the official imprimatur. Scott has just passed his first year in the top ABC job. Federal Arts Minister, Senator George Brandis, listened to Kim Dalton, telling the government that the proposed rebate system introduced in the budget should be re-examined, along with the suggested mechanism for assessing TV productions. He pointed out that last year a total ABC cash contribution of around $21m has been built into over $60m worth of production. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: RSPCA Animal Rescue was the top program on the night with 1.643 million people, Medical Emergency bounced off it at 8pm for 1.583 million and Seven News was 3rd with 1.511 million. Today Tonight was 4th with 1.479 million and All Saints was 5th with 1.362 million. Nine News was 6th with 1.298 million and Home And Away won the 7pm slot for Seven, with 1.292 million. The 7pm ABC News was second in the slot with 1.196 million, just ahead of Nine’s Temptation with 1.192 million people. The new Simpsons ep was Ten’s best at 10th spot with 1.175 million, with the 8pm repeat next with 1.149 million. Nine’s Things To Do Before You Die lost ground last night (was it the New Zealand content?) and finished with 1.139 million people. A Current Affair was 13th with 1.109 million and the repeat of CSI Miami averaged 1.093 million at 8.30pm for Nine. 7pm Big Brother averaged 1.073 million people and was the 15th and last program with a million or more viewers. Ten’s repeat of NCIS was next with 974,000, Deal or No Deal at 5.30pm for Seven, 968,000 and Ten’s Neighbours fell below a million for the second night of the new look to average 957,000, which is what it averaged last Tuesday night!

The Losers: Losers? Nine’s schedule last night. Things To Do Before You Die was OK but weak at 7.30pm but from then on CSI Miami, a repeat, 1.093 million and then a repeat of CSI New York at 9.30pm, just 780,000. This is a network running dead (for the second night in a row and as Seven well on Thursday night). This is not a network that wants to give the market leader a run for its ratings and ad money. In Backyard Blitz at 6.30pm on Sunday night Nine had ads for several community service announcements. That’s one of the highest revenue hours in TV and to not be able to fill it with paying ads is quite surprising, to say the least.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Brisbane. Today Tonight won everywhere. The 7.30 Report averaged 906,000, Foreign Correspondent rose to 642,000, Lateline finished with 241,000 and Lateline Business, 125,000. Ten’s News At Five averaged 917,000, the Late News/Sports Tonight, 421,000. Nine’s Nightline, 238,000. World News Australia at 6.30pm, 225,000, 9.30pm, 169,000. 7am Sunrise, 388,000 (Can the absence of Mel Doyle really be costing it 30,000 to 50,000 a morning?), 7am Today back to 248,000. 9am Morning Show on Seven, 177,000, KAK at 9am on Nine, 110,000, 9AM With David and Kim, 85,000.

The Stats: Seven won with a share of 32.6% (29.6% a week earlier) from Nine on 24.8% (25.1%) and Ten with 21.8% (24.2%). The ABC was on 15.4% (14.6%) and SBS on 5.5% (6.6%). Seven won all five metro markets and now leads the week 29.0% to 25.3% for Nine. In regional areas a similar result with Prime/7Qld winning with 34.2% to WIN/NBN for Nine with 24.7%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 22.7%, the ABC with 13.2% and SBS with 5.3%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Another sub-standard night from the Nine Network, another sold night from Seven. You can see why Seven has lifted its share of commercial TV’s ad revenues and why Nine and Ten’s share were not as good as the two networks would have hoped. Seven has the all-round programming strength, Nine and Ten don’t, even in the demographics they both target, consciously or unconsciously. Seven’s RSPCA Animal Rescue and Nine’s Things To Do Before You Die were both launched last week in the 7.30pm timeslot. Animal Rescue runs from 7.30 to 8pm and last night added to its debut audience. Things To Do Before You Die lost audience last night as viewers turned off and went elsewhere. It wasn’t the sort of reaction Nine would have wanted to see. Ten’s running of an NCIS repeat last night condemned it to a less-than-average outcome. It only has several fresh NCIS eps left. Tonight though Ten should do better with Thank God You’re Here and a fresh House (only a few of those left as well). Nine has McLeod’s Daughters, Cold Case and Without A Trace, which will be good for another third spot finish. Seven has Home and Away and an hour of Police Files Unlocked, The Force having ‘moved on’ in a tactical retreat and then a movie (which will be common on Wednesday nights for the next 20 or so weeks). The ABC has Spicks and Specks at 8.30pm as its highlight, SBS has Vasili’s Garden at 7.30pm. It’s the final.

Peter Fray

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