Astra Awards reach for the stars (and get a little sweaty). There I was at the Astras in Sydney last night (Pay TV’s Night of Nights), recovering from the contortions of Bathman (I’ll explain later) when the most popular female personality award was called, and won again by Antonia Kidman. She strode to the stage, lent into the microphone and confided to the 600 or so folk in the Hordern Pavilion that this was a sweet end to a tough day. “My dad’s in hospital’, she revealed. Cue the sympathetic applause. A cynic said then said: “There’s the story, Nicole’s Dad in hospital”, which wasn’t too far from the mark. The awards ran over time by an hour (shades of the Logies, which the Astras are meant to be for Pay TV, but in a less cynical, more heartfelt way, which they were). One of the reasons for the overrun was the plethora of awards, hostings of awards ceremonies. (How come the “humanitarian”, Sarah Murdoch, as she was part-described, got to do two hostings? A friend of the owners, no doubt.) And then there was Bathman: a hit of the Sydney Festival Cabaret in January. His gymnast-like cavorting in a tub of water, half naked, wearing only a pair of tight jeans and gleaming pecs and abs, brought audible gasps to the lips (and hips) of male and female audience members alike. Some went home a little soaked from his splashing, but no doubt vowing never to dry their clothes. What a wonderful way of combining entertainment, a sense for modern issues like global warming (he did his bit for the room) and water conservation (the entire act used less than a bath tub of water). He is something we will never see on the Logies: it is their loss. — Glenn Dyer

Astras’ big award. Four channels were up for Channel of The Year (The Gold Logie for Pay TV): The History Channel, Sky News, Nickelodeon, Fox 8 and Fox Sports. All managed, owned or influenced by Foxtel and or some of its shareholders, especially News Ltd. They seem to take it in turns: in 2006 Sky News won (it would have been a fitting winner for their coverage of the election last year alone), Nickelodeon in 2007 and Fox 8 this year. Fox 8 is one of the least creative of the Pay TV channels; its programming revolves around The Simpsons and other animated series: it’s basically an acquisition channel, compared to Nickelodeon which does generate a fair amount of local content, and Sky news and Fox Sports who together give people the reason to subscribe to Pay TV in this country. Last week in the five metro markets, the 17 most watched programs on Pay TV were all sport. And ep of Dalziel and Pascoe was 18th: it had already been seen on the ABC. For all STV (as Pay TV calls itself) talks about choice and diversity and has a go at the anti-siphoning laws it is driven by sport, sport and sport. — Glenn Dyer

The Market-Place shuts up shop. The one remaining genuinely independent national Anglican newspaper, Market-Place, has been published for the last time. The Dubbo/Orange based newspaper lasted for almost 12 years – probably longer than most had expected giving the chequered history of church newspapers in Australia. The demise of Market-Place comes a decade after the last national church newspaper, Church Scene went into liquidation. Its demise will doubtless be celebrated in conservative dioceses and parishes – notably Sydney. Since its inception, Market-Place has been a “burr under the cassock” of the Archbishop of Sydney, and has been at the forefront in the fight for women bishops in particular. But Market-Place goes out in a blaze of glory – its lead story in the final edition heralded the appointed of Perth’s Archdeacon Kaye Goldsworthy as Australia’s first woman bishop. Market-Place always took a more radical stance on most issues, church and state. It railed against the Howard Government’s refugee policies in particular. The church itself did not escape scrutiny as Market-Place trenchantly criticised the church’s initial response to child abuse by clergy and others. In the final edition, the editor, Alan Reader, has tried to salvage something from the newspapers departure by planning the launch of an online newspaper – – but that will be an interesting challenge given the “age” of most Anglican congregations! The demise of Market-Place is probably not connected with the growing divisions in the Anglican Church, but to some extent reflects the continuing decline in church membership, and attendance. — Jeff Wall

Rupert takes it up to The New York Times. This week the Murdochian Era of the Proper Newspaperman has its debut. When readers open their newspapers Monday morning, they will discover a Wall Street Journal fashioned to the tastes of the man who revolutionised media markets from Australia to North America. With its increased focus on politics, international news, culture and sports, Murdoch’s reconceived Journal represents nothing short of a formal declaration of war on that most venerable of journalistic institutions, The New York Times. Not since William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal challenged Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World in the late 19th century has there been such a clash of newspaper titans. As was the case when Hearst took on Pulitzer, Murdoch – the son of an Australian journalist – still believes newspapers are the most influential media for shaping the public discourse, even in this new-media century. The fight could escalate in unknown ways if billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ends up acquiring The Times. As Newsweek has learned, top associates of the onetime information executive are encouraging him to do just that. — Johnnie L Roberts, Newsweek

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
Top was Seven’s Border Security with 1.765 million, then Seven News with 1.580 million; Serious Crash Unit at 8pm with 1.545 million, Today Tonight with 1.470 million and in 5th, Seven’s Desperate Housewives with 1.452 million. Nine’s A Current Affair was 6th with 1.382 million and Life In Cold Blood at 7.30pm averaged 1.321 million. Nine News was next with 1.311 million and Home and Away was 10th at 7pm with 1.299 million. The Biggest Loser averaged 1.225 million for Ten at 7pm, the 7pm ABC News averaged 1.147 million for 12th spot and Nine’s repeat of Two And A Half Men averaged 1.013 million for 13th spot. The ABC’s Australian Story averaged 958,000, More Than Enough Rope at 9.35pm on the ABC, 962,000.

The Losers: Dirty Sexy Money (904,000) and CSI New York (942,000) One falling, one bouncing. Does anyone care? At least Andrew Denton’s “repeat” last night featured interesting people from recut interviews of the past. No one wanted to see Ten’s Truth About Binge Drinking at 7.30pm: 786,000. With So You Think You Can Dance Australia finished except for next Sunday night, there was around 400,000-500,000 viewers of that program available to other networks, and it showed last night.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market. Today Tonight won nationally, lost Sydney and Melbourne but won Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. TT needed its big Perth margin for the national win. Ten News averaged 917,000, the late News/Sports Tonight, 284,000. Nine’s Nightline, 240,000. The 7.30 Report, 840,000; Lateline, 352,000, Lateline Business, 143,000. World News Australia on SBS at 6.30pm, 182,000, 9.30pm, 181,000. 7am Sunrise, 383,000; 7am Today 287,000.

The Stats: Seven won 6pm to midnight with 30.8% (28.5%) from Nine with 28.7% (27.5%), Ten with 18.3% (21.7%), the ABC with 17.0% (16.3%) and SBS with 5.2% (5.9%). Seven won Sydney, Melbourne, lost Brisbane to Nine, won Adelaide and Perth. Seven leads the week 29.6% to Nine with 28.5%. In regional areas though a different result with Nine winning through NBN/WIN with 32.2%, from Prime/7Qld with 27.0%, Ten through Southern Cross with 18.0%, the ABC on 16.2% and SBS with 6.5%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: For the second night in a row Seven has pulled off a better than expected win. Even though Life In Cold Blood did well for Nine at 7.30pm and boosted Sea Patrol at 8.30pm to its highest audience of the new series so far. Seven’s Border Security and Serious Crash Unit were far more dominant at 7.30pm to 8.30pm, and this in turn helped Desperate Housewives benefit from the shark jumping Tornado episode. Even Dirty Sexy Money added viewers for Seven at 9.30pm, but Andrew Denton’s recut of previous interviews won the timeslot. Tonight it’s the final of Seven’s It takes Two: Julia Morris to win. Nine has Gordon Ramsay and the stronger 20 to 1 at 7.30pm after Moment Of Truth was boned. Seven also has All Saints at 9.30pm after two hours of It Takes Two. Ten has an NCIS repeat after a fresh NCIS at 8.30pm which is after Bondi Rescue at 8pm.

Source: OzTAM, TV Networks reports

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey