Unfortunate line-up. The Age had a tale of two axings yesterday.

Tax whats? Sure it’s tax time. And sure, nobody likes paying tax. But like traffic cops or public transport ticket inspectors, the people who work for the tax office are just doing their job. Which is why we think this Freudian slip emailed to Crikey from a popular Melbourne commercial radio station a little unfair. Is it a leaked studio out-take? Is it even legit? Crikey was unable to find answers those questions, but if you can get over those details, it’s quite amusing. Warning: foul language. 

US ad spending down again. A leading media buyer has downgraded its growth forecast for advertising spending in the U.S. to 3.5 percent. ZenithOptimedia, which is owned Publicis Groupe, had already rolled back its initial growth forecast for 2008 from 4.1 percent to 3.7 percent in March … But the company expects global internet ad spending to grow 26.7 percent this year, and will surpass its prediction that online ads will account for 12.3 percent of all advertising spending by 2010. Zenith now puts that number at 13.6 percent. — Folio Magazine

Blog purges free speech. Internet freedom advocates—a group that includes just about every blogger—are up in arms at the revelation that Boing Boing, the incredibly popular this-and-that blog, has purged its archives of all the works of Violet Blue, a blogger who also contributes to Gawker s-x site Fleshbot. The reason for the disappearance is unclear; but whatever it is, it can’t fit in well with Boing Boing co-editor Cory Doctorow’s free speech crusading. But you can file it under one of the great universal truths: Media People (of all stripes) Are Touchier Than Anybody . — Gawker

Washington Post tries to capitalize on political interest. Over the past year, politics-oriented Web sites have attracted record amounts of Internet traffic, and the Washington Post has apparently concluded that it’s not commanding enough of it. Top thinkers at the paper are currently discussing a brand-new, semi-autonomous site that would package the Post ’s politics reporting, multimedia offerings, and other stuff. “We’re exploring whether or not it would be feasible or advisable to create a niche Web site on politics in parallel with our political coverage on washingtonpost.com,” says Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr . Users could find it all at Postpolitics.com. — Washington Post via Mediabistro

Testing time for rugby on Pay TV. Last Saturday night’s direct broadcast of the first Australia-France Rugby Union Test was broadcast live on both the Seven network and Fox Sports 3 on Foxtel, and there was, like the Test, a clear winner. The Seven Network. Now Foxtel and Fox Sports will argue that they don’t have the same market share as the free to air networks, and that’s true. Foxtel now claims coverage of around 30% (it’s hard to know exactly because the penetration figure isn’t made public all that often). But 121,000 people watched the Test in the five metro markets on Foxtel, and a total of 198,000 across all the Pay TV platform (including Optus).

The Pay TV broadcast went across Australia live, to all states and territories where there’s Pay TV. But the Seven broadcast only went live to Sydney and Brisbane and the Queensland and NSW regional markets. It was on delay in other markets. That means Seven had more viewers in a restricted live broadcast than Pay TV did live across the country. A total audience of 885,000 people watched the game live and on delay on the Seven Network across the five metro markets and in regional areas. All up, Seven’s telecast was more than four times as popular on Seven than on Pay TV. Pay TV’s biggest penetration is in the Sydney market, which is the biggest market for Rugby as well. Pay TV was easily out-rated. What we don’t also have is the breakdown from homes with PayTV between those who watched the Test on Seven and those who watched the Test on Fox Sports 3.

According to Pay TV figures, 1.499 million people were watching subscription TV at the time of the Test. That includes the NRL on at the same time, the AFL and programs like the Inspector Lynley Murders, plus 97 or so other channels. Both the live FTA and the Pay TV broadcasts went head to head and Seven won. It’s also significant because Foxtel shows the Super 14 Rugby games and other Tests live or on delay, Seven only shows Tests involving Australia live: the Tri-Nations Tests involving South Africa and NZ are replayed at a later time. In fact Foxtel does all the hard work in promoting Rugby Union because its part owner, News Corp, has an agreement with the SANZAR group (Australia, NZ, South Africa) which controls the competition and the Tri-Nations Tests. Seven has the free to air rights for the Super 14s but chooses not to exercise them; only for the Tests involving Australia. — Glenn Dyer

Reason # 8736 why it’s not good to embarrass the boss. Are the Canadian owners of Ten Network, the Asper family and its CanWest Global, stalking the Ten Network chairman, Nick Falloon? Word around the TV industry is that the Aspers didn’t appreciate Falloon’s new earnings downgrade last month. In fact it came as a surprise to them. The earnings downgrade (10% off profits for 2008) dropped the Ten share price, which embarrasses the Aspers and CanWest, which is struggling to survive in a Canadian media market that is more dire than ours. Ten is in fact a strong performer, compared to Canwest. The local group’s finances are solid, if under pressure. CanWest is just under pressure.

CanWest’s share prices (there are two stocks quoted on the Toronto Stock Exchange), are now down at CAD2.70 and $CAD2.75. That’s down from highs of $CAD9.80 in the past year. The 56% of Ten CanWest owns is still worth around $700 million. Ten’s shares were 5.5 cents lower this morning at $1.385. CanWest is struggling to handle the debt it took on to buy a fleet of newspapers and then the Alliance Atlantis TV production and distribution business. The latter was financed by money raised by Goldman Sachs in a joint venture. Those $CAD2.3 billion has to be refinanced this December and in the current climate that is problematic. CanWest has to make a ‘balloon’ payment to complete payment, which was 100% financed by Goldman Sachs private equity arm. That’s the same group that was involved in the buyback of Endermol by John De Mol, Mediaset and Goldman Sachs Private Equity. Goldman Sachs and other banks sold bonds in that buyback last week for a 30% discount.

The Aspers won’t get a discount at the end of the year and bank finance is impossible to get for media stocks because of the loss of value in the market and forecasts of lower ad revenues, especially in North America. The Aspers were greedy when they rejected the offers last year for Ten because they were not enough. They now join James Packer in ruing the day they said no. Remember Packer set too high a price for his 38% of Consolidated Media when Lachlan Murdoch was trying to buy it. He wanted $4.80 a share, Cons Media is now at $3.27. Packer did though sell 75% of PBL media (Cons Media owns the other 25%) to CVC for a lot of money. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
Another solid night from Seven saw it win more clearly than Monday night, Nine split its 7.30pm audience but the AFL stunt game still had the biggest single audience (538,000 in Melbourne).14 programs with a million or more viewers. The final final of Australia’s Got Talent averaged 1.587 million (Next week it’s a psychics program at 7.30pm). Seven News was second with 1.552 million and Today Tonight was third with 1.417 million. Ten’s fresh ep of NCIS averaged 1.312 million in 4th and Nine’s repeat of Two and a Half Men averaged 1.294 million at 7pm. Home and Away was 6th with 1.277 million and the NCIS repeat at 9.30pm averaged 1.214 million. Nine News was 8th with 1.213 million and the 7pm ABC News was next with 1.207 million viewers. A Current Affair was 10th with 1.201 million, All Saints was 11th at 9.30pm with 1.148 million, The Simpsons repeat at 8pm averaged 1.125 million and the fresh ep at 7.30pm was next in 13th spot with 1.102 million. And Seven’s highlights program from World’s Got Talent at 8.30pm was 14th with 1.054 million. Nine’s audience was divided from 7.30pm into AFL (the EJ Whitten Legends Game which averaged 795,000 and was poorly watched in Adelaide and Perth, and a repeat of 20 to 1 with Bert in Sydney and Brisbane (581,000) and then two fresh eps of Two And A Half Men in both Sydney and Brisbane which averaged 660,000. They will be repeated nationally at 7pm by Nine no doubt. Next Tuesday Nine reverts to running a fresh and a repeat ep of Two And A Half Men from 8.30 to 9.30pm. Nine is obviously short a program at the moment for that timeslot.

The Losers: Nine’s boorish 9.30pm program Bad Lads Army with 724,000. It makes the antics of naughty AFL: and NRL players look tame and almost Methodist. Big Brother, 801,000 for half an hour from 7pm.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Melbourne. Today Tonight won nationally but not in Melbourne and Brisbane. The 7pm ABC news finished ahead of Nine in the rankings in Sydney. The 7.30 Report averaged 940,000, Lateline, 237,000, Lateline Business, 108,000. Ten News, 932,000, the late News/Sports Tonight, 468,000. 6.30pm SBS News, 219,000, Insight 283,000 at 7.30pm, the 9.30pm SBS News, 163,000. 7am Sunrise, 379,000, 7am Today, 306,000.

The Stats: Seven won 6pm to midnight All People with 30.5% (28.8%) from Nine with 26.4% (27.5%), Ten with 23.4% (24.6%), the ABC with 14.8% (14.3%) and SBS with 4.9% (4.8%). Seven won Sydney, Adelaide and Perth. Nine won Melbourne and Brisbane. Nine leads the week 29.4% to 28.7% for Seven. In regional areas Prime/7Qld won with 35.1% from WIN/NBN with 25.4%, Southern Cross (Ten) with 22.4%, the ABC with 12.1% and SBS with 5.1%.

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Not much to say about last night. Nine went for the stunt of the “legends” game in Melbourne and it rated very well. It was AFL and there’s no other game in town. The Talent program finished well for Seven but next week looks a shocker. A program on psychics. Will they forecast this year’s ratings result? Tonight its the State of Origin Rugby League game on Nine in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide. On delay in Perth. It will do very well, seeing its one-all. The ABC has Spicks and Specks and The Gruen Transfer. Seven has a fresh Ugly Betty and a repeat of Criminal Minds at 8.30pm. Ten has a repeat of House at 8.30pm but fresh eps of Rules of Engagement and Back to You from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. SBS has Dateline and George Negus against the might of Origin at 8.30 pm. Who will win?

Source: OzTAM, TV Networks reports

Peter Fray

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