Red Kez’s blues. News.com.au has kindly made available an MP3 file of Kerry O’Brien’s little autocue rant from last night for those who missed it. And whoever fixed the file up obviously has a sense of humour. Save it into your iTunes library and it describes the genre as “Blues”. Meanwhile, go here if you want the vision. — Christian Kerr
Rudd: unreliable talent. There’s been more fun with Kevin Rudd and the radio station that’s virtually round the corner from his Brisbane office, but he doesn’t seem to want to appear on 4BC. Last Friday, the Drive show finally thought they’d landed him. Then he cancelled. So they filled the gap with … the Prime Minister, who very rarely does the drive programs. But they made their opinions known:
Tiley: We were to be talking to the Federal leader of the Opposition Kevin Rudd. We have put calls in to Kevin Rudd’s office on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday, and again on Friday, and on each occasion they’ve said, we’ll do what we can, and about 25 minutes ago, the office called our producer, Halina, and said, no, he won’t be available. Well, Mr Kevin Rudd, thanks for your time.
Miller: Yeah, marvellous. Marvellous. Obviously deciding not to front the local media, he’s prepared to talk, of course, to his mates in the ABC but won’t have a yarn to us, so good luck to you, Mr Rudd.
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Tiley: Yeah, good luck to you winning the state of Queensland, too, and the seats you need given what the Labor Premier Peter Beattie has done this week, but, fair dinkum, Kevin Rudd, I thought that you should have at least come on, on one of the days this week, and said, hello, fellas, this is what I think about what’s going on up there. — Christian Kerr
Murdoch turns his gaze to the “Gray Lady”. Whether you agree or disagree with Rupert Murdoch’s politics, his empire building or his attitudes to media diversity, most agree that his ability to haul ever-greater profits from his media properties is matched only by his appetite for new ones. Only last week the Restless One inked the deal for the Wall Street Journal, and now, according to the LA Times, he’s “Taking aim at the New York Times.” But that’s not a proprietorial aim, rather his plan to knock the “Gray Lady” off its perch. Reports have Murdoch telling friends in private that he is going to use the Journal to take down the Times. The LA Times claims that News Corp executives met recently to identify precisely where the New York Times is underperforming — hunters might call it identifying the kill spot. Murdoch last week hinted at beefing up the WSJ’s general national and international news, which attacks the New York Times’ pre-eminence as a “journal of record”. Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University’s journalism school, said that’s “akin to creating a soda that overtakes Coca Cola,” but Murdoch has never been a setter of modest goals. He can also attack the Times on cover price, advertising rates and, of course, business coverage. And as the battle for online readers intensifies, Murdoch can make the Journal’s website free, thereby “junking a million subscriptions of as much as $79 per year. Besides dealing a potentially fatal blow to mainstream efforts to charge for the news, such a move suggests that Murdoch still prizes readership and the advertisers they attract over high prices, the same choice he will face with the print edition,” writes The LA Times’ Joseph Menn. But amid all the speculation, there is one thing we know for sure: we won’t have to wait long for Murdoch to make intentions clear. — Thomas Hunter
Australian public’s bias on media bias. A large majority of Australians believe that most forms of media in Australia are ‘often biased’, says the latest Roy Morgan survey on media perception. According to the survey 85% (down 1% since September 2004) of Australians believe that newspaper journalists are often biased, 74% (up 1%) believe TV reporters are often biased and 69% (down 6%) believe that talk-back radio announcers are often biased. Andrew Bolt (Herald Sun), Anna Coren (Today Tonight) and John Laws were rated most biased in their respective mediums. Some good news for Crikey subscribers though: the only form of mainstream media to narrowly escape censure from the majority is online – “49% of Australians believe internet sites are often biased,” the report says. Newspaper journalists fared worst in the ‘media accuracy’ stakes, considered by 62% (down 1%) of Australians as often getting their facts wrong, followed closely by TV reporters (55%, up 1%) and talk-back radio announcers (51%, down 4%). The Today Tonight v A Current Affair battle raged on in the ‘invading privacy’ category, TT taking top place with 6.5% (up 5%), leading ACA by 2%. — Luke McKenna
More welfare for poor TV networks. A compromise is being negotiated between Australia’s independent TV producers and the Federal Arts Minister, Senator George Brandis, that could end the stand-off over the Howard Government’s controversial decision to allow the five free to air TV Networks (and Foxtel) access the proposed 20% producers rebate for Australian productions. The rebate decision has provoked a storm of protest as independent producers and others in the industry have complained to the Federal Government saying it threatened to put many of them out of business. As well, the Howard Government’s decision is now being seen as a subsidy to three foreign-owned or partly-controlled commercial networks (Seven, 50% owned, Nine, 75% foreign owned and Ten, 56% foreign- owned). The ABC and SBS, where they decide to, can access the rebate, as presently planned, if they produce programs in house. Both are moving to out-sourcing. Foxtel would also be entitled to the rebate but it out sources a lot of production. The Federal Government’s decision on the rebate, it is now also been realised, would enable the three commercial networks to partly fund their Australian quota requirements from the taxpayer. The commercial networks must meet an overall 55% of content from Australia (from 6am to midnight), with complicated points arrangements for drama and documentaries. If this becomes law, we would have the amazing situation where the Howard Government had not only allowed the ownerships of two of the networks (Seven and Nine) to move to part or almost whole foreign ownership, but it permitted Ten’s Canadian owners to move to outright control, it has blocked a fourth network until 2012 at the earliest and has maintained the sport anti-siphoning laws which restrict competition for TV sporting rights and protect the networks from Pay TV. Now it is proposing to allow the trio to finance their Australian content targets by using a 20% rebate on all Australian productions. The rebate is the key part of the change to funding TV production contained in the May Federal Budget, which also revealed plans to merge the Australian Film Commission, Film Australia and the Film Financing Corporation, into the one body starting from July 1 2008. The rebate starts then but the old funding mechanism will remain in place for this financial year. The compromise was discussed in Canberra yesterday by Senator Brandis and the Senate Communications and the Arts Standing Committee (which oversees the Senate estimates hearings). There was support for a limit to the rebate change with the three commercial networks being unable to claim it until all their Australian content requirements had been met. While second best, this compromise would force the three networks to meet their Australian content requirements by either internal or external productions. The networks though will still be able to use NZ-produced programs to meet local content rules: this might enable them be in a better position to over produce and get some of the rebate. — Glenn Dyer
Seven kills the Wednesday night movie. The Seven Network has been forced to reshuffle its Wednesday night schedule ahead of time to prevent further leakage of viewers to Ten, Nine, the ABC and SBS from the scheduling of below par movies at 8.30pm. Seven has junked what it claimed was the new Wednesday night run down of a movie at 8.30pm and going back to being competitive. After possibly the worst performance by a first run movie this year in prime time, The Village last Wednesday night at 8.30pm, 489,000 people, Seven blinked and reshuffled the schedule because it imperilled the launch of its most expensive programme of the year, the new Australian police drama City Homicide. The guides at the weekend said Seven had a movie called The Anchorman down to show at 8.30pm on Wednesday night, after Most Shocking at 7.30pm (which is a lightweight police car video program). Seven has brought back The Force and instead of running it at 7.30pm, as it did several weeks ago for one night where it was bounced by the return of Thank God You’re Here on Ten, Seven is now running it at 8.30pm, with Murder Squad after it. Both will be half hour programs. Seven had planned to run movies in the 8.30pm timeslot until City Homicide, the new Melbourne-located crime program, was brought into the schedule at the end of August. But Seven’s poor effort last Wednesday forced the change. The Force is now a ratings filler to be used in this fashion. It is bound for summer at this rate. Murder Squad is a British program. At 9.30pm is the network’s ‘go to program’ in 2007, Air Crash Investigations, several eps of which have appeared on pay TV after they have appeared on Seven. Seven has used it three times now on Wednesday nights to fill holes in the schedule. — Glenn Dyer
It’s a crime. Nine has started showing the Foxtel produced program, Crime Investigations Australia at 9.30pm Tuesday nights to fill a gap in the line-up made by switching the lowly performing CSI New York to Sunday evenings at 9.30pm. Crime Investigations Australia is hosted by former Nine Today show host, Steve Liebmann. Seeing Foxtel made this program for around $150,000 an hour, compared to more than $400,000 an hour for a drama or solid sitcom, the program will make money for Nine, and for Foxtel. Nine also shows Embarrassing Illnesses at 10.30pm Monday (from Britain), followed A Life of Grime (from Scotland). The timeslots tell you a lot about their attractiveness to mainstream viewers. Ten of course is showing America’s Next Top Model (series five from memory) on Sunday nights at 6.30pm as a lead-in to Australian Idol after starting it on Fridays at 9.30pm in the middle of Big Brother Friday nights. — Glenn Dyer
Sideshow side-swiped, Parko parked. On Saturday night the ABC admits that the Sideshow With Paul McDermott wasn’t the early evening ratings special it thought with series 1. The second series now starts at 9.25pm and runs until 10.20pm when the latest and last series of Parkinson starts. Series 1 started earlier this year in the 7.30pm timeslot and the program attracted around 650,000 viewers on average. The Sideshow was slow, self-indulgent and not very amusing. 9.25pm is almost a death slot, but not as fatal at 10.20pm on the same night. It’s a signal of how boring and self indulgent Parkie has become at his time at ITV. — Glenn Dyer
More evidence of Foxtel’s double-speak on ratings. The Pay TV network doesn’t like breaking out the ratings for individual channels, nor does it break out its prime time ratings each night. It says that would be misleading as pay TV is a 24 hour broadcast, not just limited for a few hours in the evening. So what then are we to make of the full page ad in News Ltd Sunday papers promoting Madmen, a series about Madison Avenue in the 1960s? (That was the advertising capital of the world back then). “Hot off the satellite for Australian audiences”. Tonight 8.30pm, which is right in the middle of prime time. Two episodes back to back. On Movie Extra… It’s also Tuesday nights at 9.30pm. Gotta maintain the non-prime time fiction of Pay TV, Foxtel. — Glenn Dyer
Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners: Just 13 programs with a million or more viewers. Seven’s Border Security was tops with 1.616 million people, but that was more than 200,000 under the 1.8 million-plus it has been attracting. Seven News was second with 1.514 million, Today Tonight was third with 1.453 million (Sam Armytage standing in for Anna Coren). Australian Idol, audition 3 was 4th with 1.449 million people, Home And Away was 5th with 1.412 million people at 7pm. Nine News was 6th with 1.372 million, A Current Affair was 7th with 1.349 million and Surf Patrol was 8th with 1.262 million for Seven at 8pm. It was also down around 200,000 viewers off the back of Border Security. Seven’s Criminal Minds though was up a touch and enough to win the 8.30pm slot with 1.258 million. Nine’s Temptation averaged 1.195 million at 7pm and the fresh ep of Law And Order SVU at 8.30 for Ten averaged 1.074 million people. It pushed Eddie McGuire’s 1 vs 100 into third spot in the slot with 1.053 million people and 12th overall. Last and 13th was the 7pm ABC News with 1.014 million people. Top Gear on SBS at 7.30pm averaged 819,000 and beat Nine’s repeat of The Queen’s Castle! Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope at 9.35pm, 940,000 and for the second week in a row, a slot winner!
The Losers: Losers? A nice democratic night. Nine, Ten and Seven all had programs they’d rather ignore. Seven has Shark, week two at 9.30pm. A terminal flop. It’s not critics who don’t like it, viewers don’t. 708,000. Good night Shark, see you in summer. The Law And Order SVU repeat at 9.30pm on Ten, 888,000. Just filler material because Ten doesn’t have enough product. And Nine: the repeat of The Queen’s Castle (AKA Windsor Castle) at 7.30pm. In the guides as a ‘series return’. Rubbish. it was a common repeat and viewers spotted it. 787,000 viewers, less than the flop that it replaced, What A Year. Nine also had a second flop. ER at 9.30pm, 834,000. Viewers are not silly, they can spot a turkey across a living room. There were quite many loose on TV last night.
News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and won Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, while Nine News won Melbourne and Brisbane. Today Tonight won everywhere but Melbourne but in both cases, big wins in Perth were mighty handy on the night. Ten News At Five averaged 886,000 people, The Late News/Sports Tonight, 426,000. Nine’s Nightline, 245,000. The 7.30 Report, 661,000, Lateline, 321,000, Lateline Business, 119,000. Four Corners at 8.30pm, 848,000, Media Watch, 750,000. World News Australia, 210,000 at 6.30pm, 148,000 at 9.30pm. 7am Sunrise, 379,000, 7am Today, 258,000. The 9am Morning Show on Seven (It’s really developed into Beige TV), 159,000; KAK on Nine at 9am, 122,000, David & Kim on Ten at 9am, 83,000.
The Stats: Seven won with a share of 28.9% (29.6% a week ago), from Nine with 24.1% (23.9%), Ten on 24.0% (23.4%), the ABC 15.6% (16.4%) and SBS on 7.4% (6.7%). Seven won four of the markets and shared Brisbane with Nine. Seven lead the week 27.8% to 25.3%. Ten’s share in Sydney was above its national share. In regional areas, a win to prime/7Qld with 27.6% from Nine through WIN/NBN with 25.0%, Southern Cross (Ten) on 24.9%, the ABC with 14.1% and SBS with 8.3%.
Glenn Dyer’s comments: While Seven has bragging rights for the night, the real winner was Andrew Denton at 9.35 with another of his Enough Rope specials on remote parts of Australia. This time it was Mount Isa in far Northwest Queensland. It was ordinary, interesting and intelligent. Denton’s program won the timeslot, beating a flop in ER on Nine, another flop on Seven called Shark and a fading repeat on Ten in the second ep of Law And order SVU. There’s a message there for all those highly paid folk in commercial TV programming departments, viewers don’t mind being shown intelligently made programs with intelligent people in charge on screen. For a different reason Idol seems to be working better for Ten than last year. Even though Dicko was re-injected to give it bite, he actually gives it a maturity of comment that was lacking last year from the panel, with the honourable exception of Ms Hines. Even Kyle Sandilands seems to have twigged to the change. Only Mark Holden hasn’t got it. But then he was a pop star boy idol, briefly. It’s his excuse and he’s sticking to it. But for an old fa–t like me Idol is not as cringingly forced as it has been in the past. And some of the desperate who have fronted the auditions have been charming and wonderful. Tonight it’s the animals on Seven, plus doctors and nurses at 8 pm and 8.30 pm. the rest is sort of well, horizontal (Foreign Correspondent on the ABC at 9.20pm excepted). On SBS’s Insight though the viewing highlight of the night. The battle for Bennelong: John Howard vs. Max McKew, plus some voters. A good idea. That’s tonight at 7.30pm. SBS says Insight host, Jenny Brockie talks to both John Howard and Maxine McKew, plus 30 Bennelong voters about Bennelong and the latest polls there which are not as clear cut as the weekend papers in Sydney would have us believe apparently…