Anyone reading the Friday morning papers might think it was big news: Ray Martin had left Nine. In reality, he’s just helped Nine management and the owners, CVC and James Packer, make a $1.2 million cost saving.

He resigned on air talking to a Sydney radio station announcer, Phillip Clark of 2GB (and a former ABC employee), before Nine had been able to issue a statement. He posed for the papers: he was the story, not the reasons for leaving Nine.

It was reported he left amicably, but if that was the case, why all the stories about how upset he was with the changes desperate Nine management are making to the Sunday program? This includes changing the start time (7.30am, to 8am, back to 7.30am), cutting segments, not replacing staff departures and forcing the program to be light and bright.

Ray struggled fronting Sunday in tandem with Ellen Fanning, who in turn struggled co-hosting Sunday with Ross Greenwood: it was that pairing and the changes in the wake of the removal of Jana Wendt which hurt Sunday in the eyes of viewers. The viewers deserted Sunday. Seven’s Weekend Sunrise (which is starting at 7.30am this Sunday) pushed further ahead in the ratings battle, extending its lead to around 200,000 each Sunday morning.

This Sunday, Nine has the almost infomercial Business Success at 9.30am and then the weekly NBL highlights. Advertisers who might support Sunday will not support low yielding programs like these two. So the revenue will fall (Nine believes so will the costs) and viewers will vanish.

It’s a downward spiral for Nine. After the failure of The Chopping Block David Gyngell’s judgement is now being called into question. That he has supported the neutering of Sunday adds to that.

Ray Martin was a very good journalist in the early days of 60 minutes but he allowed himself to be seduced into believing he was a “star” when he was always just a good journo. Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton are or were stars, Ray was never one of them.

He lasted three years at A Current Affair, replacing Mike Munro who was undermined by the David Gyngell-lead management at Nine. Ray failed at ACA, just as Tracy Grimshaw is failing at the moment.

He should have walked in 2006 when Nine management, helped by the management of Sunday, gave Jana Wendt the push. Lord knows he could afford to, being a multi millionaire from his huge salaries and share investments. He was once very close to Rene Rivkin, Graham Richardson and Trevor Kennedy. They had been shareholders in Offset Alpine, as this report from 2003 confirms.

Ray and his reported $1.2 million salary should be looked at as just a solid cost cut for the owners of Nine, CVC Asia and James Packer’s Cons Media Holdings, and the management, led by David Gyngell.

He now says he is going to be a “gun for hire”. So, what’s new about that? He was always that at Nine, without any thought to how that might look to TV viewers, who in the end showed they are the most important people in TV. They deserted him.

Peter Fray

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