The Hitch comes out. Yesterday in the Sunday Herald Sun, longtime Melbourne Channel Nine newsreader Peter Hitchener finally confirmed a long held secret — he came out:

I am a single person and given that we are on private issues of private life, I am choosing to share with you today that part of my life that I have not spoken about before: that I am gay… That is part of who I am and with that disclosure, or acknowledgment, I just also need to say I am still the person I was yesterday. I am still the same person and I remain committed to my job and my family and my service and so on… It is not something that has ever come up before. I have never been asked about it before. There is never a right time, or an easy time, to talk about these personal issues, but this is the right time to say it and to move on.

Hitchener joins SBS’s Anton Enus as Australia’s only openly gay newsreaders. Channel 9’s director of news, Michael Venus, fully supported Hitchener’s decision to speak out.

I am acutely aware of how difficult a decision this has been for Peter. Indeed I know he has agonised over it for a very long time.  But it is a decision which has our full support and in no way diminishes his standing as one of Australia’s pre-eminent broadcasters. And why would it? His professionalism and credibility is without peer. He is an enormously popular and much-loved public figure who continues to do an outstanding job. He enjoys the respect of everyone in the newsroom and this revelation – “sensitively done with such dignity and style” – further endears him to us all. He is a great communicator and has wonderful warmth and credibility. People believe what he says. He has a quite unassuming style and I think to most people he is an authoritative, joy to watch. And he is without doubt the best newsreader in the country.

Why Hitchener chose to make the announcement after a decade at the newsdesk we don’t know, but Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt praised him for his openness, and also asked a good question: “I’m assuming he feels in part that his public is mature enough to accept him as he is, especially having known and liked him so long, and that he doesn’t have to hide, pretend or deflect. Either that, or he’s taking a risk — and setting an example — that is brave, which may explain the jittery comments of support in this article from Nine’s director of news.” So are viewers mature enough these days to digest the news about their anchor’s s-xuality and move on? Should any of this really make a difference anymore? Time, and the ratings, will tell… — Sophie Black

Jim’s long lunch. Have a listen to Melbourne 3AW’s Derryn Hinch talking with Jim Wilson of the Herald-Sun in last week’s Friday sports round-up. On this particular Friday afternoon, Wilson was incapable of forming a sentence and was struggling with names and subjects. Hinch (no stranger to being a little under the weather on air), as he realised, hesitated and then, after just two of Wilson’s rambles, broke to a very long series of ads, presumably trying to figure out how to deal with him… After the ads, Hinch gets back on and says “I don’t think Jim should be on air right now” and brings in Graeme Bond to do the spot..most amusing. Listen here and here. Wilson has promised an explanation to Hinch on this afternoon’s program. Stay tuned. — A Crikey reader

Blog till you drop. They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home. A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment. – New York Times

Corp reorganises its internet division. News Corp.’s Fox Interactive Media Internet division could fall short of its fiscal 2008 revenue target of $1 billion, as it reorganizes its divisions to better exploit the online advertising market. The News Corp. division that oversees the world’s largest social network, MySpace, said in a statement it plans to officially launch its long-awaited online advertising network. The FIM Audience Network will consolidate its newly developed advertising technologies such as its “hyper-targeting” tools that tailor advertisements to Web surfers’ interests. “I am confident that we are moving in the right direction to secure our long-term success, and I am certain that we have the right leadership team in place to take us there,” FIM Chief Peter Levinsohn said in a memo to employees obtained by Reuters. Regarding its revenue targets, Fox Interactive Media said in a statement, “We expect to be close to our target.” The memo partially confirms a report on technology blog TechCrunch, which reported late Thursday that the division would miss its annual revenue target of about $1 billion and likely come in at around $900 million. — Los Angeles Times

New HarperCollins unit to try to cut writer advances. HarperCollins Publishers is forming a new publishing group that will substitute profit-sharing with authors for cash advances and will try to eliminate the costly practice of allowing booksellers to return unsold copies. In a move that surprised many industry insiders, HarperCollins announced on Thursday that Robert S. Miller, the founding publisher of Hyperion, the adult books division of the Walt Disney Company, would leave his post of 17 years to lead this new, as yet unnamed entity. — New York Times

Nine and Seven draw rating survey. A draw between Nine and Seven in the first week of the new rating survey for 2008, but Nine was the real winner with victory in the 25 to 54 age group. And the result came down to the fact that Nine had a better Saturday night schedule with a repeat of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone. Nine anyhow can claim to be the winner because it also won the 18 to 49 group while Ten won the 16 to 39 group. Seven and Nine drew with 27.% (27.4% last week for Seven and 25.5% last week for Nine). Ten was on 21.9% (24.4%), the ABC on a high 17.5% (17.2%) and SBS was on 5.1% (5.5%). Nine won Sydney and Brisbane; Seven won Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Not having Underbelly in Melbourne meant it again lost a week it should have really won. Seven won Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights. Nine won the rest. Gladiators was the top show with 1.8 million viewers. Seven had four of the top 10 programs, Nine had three, Ten two and the ABC one (Enough Rope and the Wayne Carey interview). Meanwhile in regional areas a win to Nine through WIN/NBN with 29.5%, from Prime/7Qld with 27.2%, Southern cross (Ten) with 20.3%, the ABC with 16.7% and SBS with 5.8%. In the 6pm to 10.30pm metro battle Fusion Strategy figures show that Seven won with 23.42% (23.47% a year ago which was Easter week), from Nine with 23.05% (21.00%). Ten was next with 18.65% (19.49%), The ABC was on 15.45% (14.13%), Pay Tv with 15.16% (17.29%) and SVS was on 4.27% (4.62%). — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
Gladiators averaged 1.571 million for top spot but was around 300,000 down on the first week’s 1.868 million. Seven news was second, boosted in Melbourne by the AFL. It averaged 1.540 million. 60 Minutes was 3rd with an incest story and averaged 1.509 million. Ten’s So You think You Can Dance Australia was 4th with 1.361 million and Nine News was 5th with 1.317 million. CSI was next at 8.30pm for Nine with 1.313 million and The Biggest Loser at 6.30pm on Ten averaged 1.244 million. Police Files Unlocked on Seven at 8pm averaged 1.096 million, Grey’s Anatomy at 8.30pm on Seven, 1.075 million and My Name Is Earl at 8pm, 1.071 million for 10th spot. Nine’s 7pm program, RFDS averaged 1.029 million and at 6.30pm, Animal Emergency averaged 1.018 million for 12th spot. Without a Trace on Nine at 9.30pm averaged 1.002 million and doesn’t have the same impact as it did two years ago. Rove averaged 834,000 at 9pm. Robin Hood, 781,000 on the ABC at 7.30pm.

The Losers: Grey’s Anatomy, 1.075 million. Not a loser but again looking light on for viewers; Brothers And Sisters at 9.30pm, 892,000. Likewise. East of Everything, 819,000 for episode two on the ABC at 8.30pm and that’s probably about what it deserved. It’s got no zing and looks like a tourist brochure. Is there supposed to be angst, irony, emotional turmoil and passion? If this is supposed to be representative of the inhabitants of the Byron Bay region, then life in Sydney/Melbourne looks fine to me.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Sydney where Nine used the NRL game to good effect, but not so in Brisbane where Seven News won easily by almost 150,000. Ten News at Five averaged 766,000. The 7pm ABC News averaged 989,000. World News Australia, 189,000. In the morning, Weekend Sunrise on Seven, 434,000. Landline on the ABC at noon, 249,000. Insiders on the ABC at 9am, 189,000, Sunday on Nine, 145,000, Inside Business, the ABC at 10am, 124,000, Offsiders on the ABC at 10.30pm, 120,000. Meet The Press on Ten, 73,000.

The Stats: Seven won the 6pm to midnight narrowly, 28.4% (29.3%) to Nine on 28.3% (30.4%). Ten was next with 23.7% (20.8%), the ABC on 13.7% (15.1%), SBS, 5.8% (4.3%) Seven. In regional areas a strong win for Nine with WIN/NBN on 33.1%, Prime/7Qld on 26.2%, Ten through Southern Cross (on 19.6%); the ABC on 14.7% and SBS on 6.4%. In the 6pm to 10.30pm battle last night Fusion Strategy says Seven won with 24.02% (21.11% for Easter Sunday last year) from Nine with 23.15% (22.61%), Ten with 20.10% (19.06%), Pay TV with 16.04% (19.13%), the ABC with 11.82% (14.57%) and SBS with 4.86% (3.53%).

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Seven carved out a narrow win last night simply because it used its AFL programming in Melbourne and Adelaide to produce big wins and offset Nine’s use of the NRL in Sydney and Brisbane, and stronger programming later in the night. Seven won in Melbourne by starting the AFL on an hour’s delay against the gate: so the 3pm start meant the game ended just before the news: Seven News had the biggest audience in the country, 497,000, Gladiators at 6.30pm the second highest in any market, 488,000. It enabled Seven to win Melbourne 28.9% to 26.2% for Ten with Nine third on 25.5%. In Adelaide the game between Port and The Crows (a local derby) went to 7.30pm locally. Seven news and Police Files Unlocked were not broadcast in that market. But The AFL game averaged 232,000, the biggest audience on the night in Adelaide. It’s why Seven won 37.2% to 26.8% for Nine. In Perth where there was normal scheduling, Nine won the normally strong Seven market, 33.0% to 27.6%. In regional areas Nine had a big win: but Seven used the AFL in two key markets to produce a surprise win, which they needed. After all Gladiators lost 300,000 viewers from its opening and its destined to trend lower. An interesting point over the weekend was that Nine’s NRL games on Friday night in Sydney and yesterday afternoon had bigger audiences than the AFL games on Seven (320,000 watched a boring Manly-Souths game in Sydney vs. 309,000 who watched Collingwood play Richmond in Melbourne!).

Source: OzTAM, TV Networks, Fusion Strategy reports.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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