Those who pay the piper call the tune. The May 27, 2008 edition of The Australian ran a short story by Siobhain Ryan about a new study that purported to show that the more newer medicines that Australians take, the longer they live. If true this is good news and we should be willing to spend even more money than we already do on new, and usually expensive, medicines. What the story failed to mention is that one of the study’s authors, Frank Lichtenberg, a US economist, has been supported in the past by pharmaceutical companies and organisations financed by these companies. These firms have a very strong financial interest in increased use of the products that they market. No doubt some new medicines are extremely beneficial but these are far and few between. French data from the independent drug bulletin La revue Prescrire found that out of 983 new drugs or new indications for existing drugs marketed in France between 1996 and 2006, only 4.1% offered major therapeutic gains. None of the 12 new anticancer drugs approved in Europe between 1995 and 2000 offered any significant improvement in action and, of the 61 new biotechnology products introduced in Europe between 1995 and 2003, only 2 were superior to existing therapies. It’s reasonable to ask where are all these wonderful new drugs that make us much healthier. Lichtenberg has been making the same claim in the U.S. for over a decade but the methods that he uses to arrive at his conclusions have come under significant criticism. Other authors who were not backed by drug companies have attempted to duplicate his research but without any success. Those who pay the piper call the tune. Newspaper stories should let readers know who is doing the paying. — Joel Lexchin, on behalf of Healthy Skepticism Management Group

Digital TV ratings now available. For the first time ever we have hard figures on what a Free To Air Network’s second channel, the digital one, is rating. From yesterday the audience figures for ABC 1 (the main analogue channel) and ABC 2 (the SD channel) were broken out. The most watched program on ABC 2 yesterday was the Joan Sutherland special at 8.30pm with 14,000 viewers, followed by the Ray Davies special at 4pm. Red Dwarf at 12.30 was third with 12,000 viewers for the hour. The rest ranked lower. Breakout figures for the three digital channels for Nine, Ten and Seven will be available in the last quarter of the year.

Noice! Aussie shows go American. There could be two Australian TV formats on air in the US prime time season from later this year, with both coming from the Seven network in different ways. Kath and Kim will be on air on NBC in the northern Fall. The ABC series here have already aired on cable in the US, but the NBC series will be the first time it has been on free to air network TV. It will be paired with The Office (seen on Ten here) on Thursday nights from October. The Seven Network’s Border Security format has been picked up by ABC via with 11 one-hour episodes of the show, which comes from executive producer Arnold Shapiro. Border Security USA will be based on Border Security: Australia’s Front Line which airs Monday nights on Seven as a half hour episode. Shapiro has given the US its version of Big Brother! The program will be based on different agencies within America’s Department of Homeland Security, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); US Coast Guard; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); the Secret Service; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); and Customs and Border Protection/the Border Patrol. Seven has now sold Border Security to 20 different countries in one form or another. You can even see it in Italy! — Glenn Dyer

De-evolution for Seven. Cavemen might already have been canned in the US but Seven is airing episodes here on Wednesday’s at 11.30pm. It averaged 205,000 viewers and beat Nightline on Nine with 194,000 and was just pipped in the half hour by Ten’s Twenty20 cricket broadcast. Cavemen lasted six episodes in the US. It’s on again this week on Seven. — Glenn Dyer

Nine was a narrow winner last week to extend it lead over Seven. In all people 6pm to midnight Nine won with 27.7% (28.3%) from Seven with 27.5% (26.8%) from Ten with 20.9% (21.5%), the ABC on 17.8% (18.0%) and SBS with 6.0% (5.8%).Nine won Sydney and Melbourne, Seven won Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Ten’s All People share last week was the lowest so far in ratings this year. The ABC’s share the week before was the highest it has had in ratings this year. Last week’s was second highest. Seven has won seven weeks for the year (with one tie) but Nine leads the year narrowly, 27.8% to Seven’s 27.7% and commercial share, 35.8% to Seven’s 35.7%. Nine’s win was again boosted by a big win in the over 55 demo; while Seven won the week in under-55s. Ten had another poor week, dragged down by the lack of oomph for Big Brother. Seven won the 6pm to 10.30pm All People battle with Pay TV included by just 7,000 viewers. But for the first time in ratings for over a year, Seven’s Sunrise program didn’t have one audience last week above 400,000 Monday to friday from 7am. Rival Today was down a bit from its performance of the previous week as well, but Sunrise continues to shed viewers. Thursday night’s ratings were issued Saturday and they showed the AFL Footy Show bouncing back to average 425,000 viewers from 9.30pm, up almost 12% from the 380,000 the week before. Sam Newman’s “resting” having the desired effect and bringing more viewers back (did they tune in just in case it was a hoax?). The thing now to watch is if Newman’s absence produces a drain of his fans away from the program. Nine’s new 5.30pm program, Wheel of Fortune averaged 542,000 Thursday but bounced to 607,000 Friday evening, its second best audience of the week after the first up 718,000 on Monday night. but its not helping the Nine News. It was beaten by more than 300,000 viewers on Friday night by Seven’s News. Nine News was easily beaten in Sydney and Brisbane by Seven, but Nine won Melbourne again. — Glenn Dyer

PayTV scores a try. Pay TV’s biggest audience was the Super 14 Rugby Union final between the Canterbury Crusaders and the NSW side in Christchurch. It averaged 263,000 viewers in the five metro markets from 5.30pm to 7.30pm Saturday. It was the top of the 13 top programs (all NRL, Union or AFL related) on Pay TV last week in metro markets. — Glenn Dyer

TV show rotation time. It’s rotation time from this week for a couple of weeks while a number of series disappear and others reappear. A new series of Top Gear reappears tonight at 7.30pm for SBS (goodbye repeats of Mythbusters until the next time). 20 to 1 finishes up on Tuesday night for Nine, Ten’s House ends with a double episode on Wednesday night. On Thursday night SBS has two episodes of repeats of InspeInspector Rex from 7.35pm to 9.30pm. How unoriginal. Desperate Housewives rotates out next Monday night from Seven. — Glenn Dyer

Revising Henson’s history As pundits and politicians whipped themselves into a frenzy over the Bill Henson controversy last week, so too were Wikipedians working behind the scenes in a whirl of amendments as they rewrote history, and the interpretation of Henson’s art, in the context of Hetty Johnson’s outrage:

Check out the full appropriately named ‘Revision History of Bill Henson’ here. Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
60 Minutes was the tops with 1.822 million. Seven News was second with a very strong 1.717 million, with Nine third with 1.553 million. Nine’s Domestic Blitz at 6.30pm averaged 1.514 million and CSI had a high 1.508 million at 8.30pm. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was 6th at 7.30pm for Seven with 1.242 million and the 7pm ABC news was 7th with 1.232 million. Gladiators was next with 1.229 million for Seven at 6.30pm and Wild China on the ABC at 7.30pm averaged 1.154 million for 9th. 10th was Without A Trace at 9.30pm for Nine with 1.077 million and the Big Brother Live Eviction averaged 1.012 million for 11th spot. Emma at 8.30pm on the ABC averaged 884,000. Flight Of The Conchords lifted to average 510,000 behind Rove just after 10pm. But next Sunday night a desperate Ten returns Supernatural to the post Rove slot at 9.40pm and Flight Of The Conchords will start at 10.40pm, meaning it has been shunted off to virtual “rest”. — Glenn Dyer

The Losers: Big Brother Sunday at 6.30pm on Sunday: 776,000. The Live Eviction without Kyle, 1.012 million for an hour and a half of nothing. Kyle seemingly wasn’t missed. Rove, 823,000, which was a bit better than previous outings, but not good. — Glenn Dyer

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Melbourne where Nine was very strong. The NRL game at 4pm did not help Nine in Sydney and especially Brisbane where Seven News averaged 396,000 and beat Nine News by 149,000 viewers; Nine News averaged 247,000. Seven’s Brisbane weekend News and especially Sunday is a tribute to former Nine Today Show reader, Sharyn Ghidella. The Brisbane-Southeast Queensland market isn’t anywhere near the size of Melbourne (around 70% maybe) and yet Seven News’ audience last night was just 7,000 short of what Seven news averaged in the much bigger southern market. Ten News averaged 630,000. SBS News averaged a high 280,000 at 6.30pm. In the morning Weekend Sunrise from 8am, 401,000, Landline on the ABC at noon, 330,000; Early Weekend Sunrise from 7.30am to 8am, 207,000. Insiders on the ABC at 9am, 179,000; Sunday on Nine from 7.30am, 148,000; Inside Business on the ABC at 10am, 121,000, Offsiders on the ABC at 10.30am, 107,000. Meet The Press, on Ten at 8am, 63,000. — Glenn Dyer

The Stats: Nine won with a share of 31.8% (31.0% last week) from Seven with 27.3% (24.3%); with Ten in third with 18.0% (18.9%), and the ABC close behind with 17.8% (19.8%). SBS was on 5.0% (8.0%). Nine won all five metro markets. In regional areas a big win to Nine through WIN/NBN with 35.0% from Prime/7Qld with 25.8%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 17.0%, the ABC on 16.1% and SBS with 5.0%. — Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer’s comments: 60 Minutes had a strong night with its latest story on incest, Austrian, style. Domestic Blitz continued to do well, but it is mawkish, and the host Shelley Craft emotes with all the believability of a fish, but it works because it is a shameless program and pulls all the right emotional levers. It trades on the vulnerability of people in this position and it trades on the audiences’ sympathy for these people. In its own way, Seven’s Gladiators is a more honest TV program, with no pretensions. Domestic Blitz is using people in terribly draining emotional situations for ratings gain. Ten has a difficult decision: there are six weeks or so of Big Brother to go (or is it five). It can’t afford to many more nights like last night. The ABC came very close to beating it for third: deservedly. Tonight, Desperate Housewives on Seven at 8.30pm, Four Corners on the ABC in the same slot. Sea Patrol (increasingly hard to believe) also at 8.30pm. A new Top Gear for all the revheads: a program for all those who believe we have a god given right to drive any car we want and pay low prices for the fuel. How SBS handles that little puzzler in its local version will be of considerable interest. Good News Week on Ten at 8.30pm but ignore Big Brother and Big Brother Big Mouth, also on Ten.

Source: OzTAM, TV Networks reports

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