ABC blows Thursday night competition out of the water. You can hear the murmurings at the Nine Network (and no doubt at The Australian): “How dare the ABC prove to be more popular than some Nine programs in Sydney last night.”

Not one, not two, but three ABC programs had more viewers in Sydney than their Nine. It was The 7pm ABC News with 340,000 in Sydney to Nine News’ 304,000 at 6 pm, The 7.30 Report had 331,000 viewers in Sydney to A Current Affair’s 295,000 and Q&A in Sydney was watched by 249,000 people in Sydney (and had its highest ever national audience) compared to 191,000 for the NRL Footy Show from 9.30 pm to 11pm (and it won the 9.30pm to 10.30 slot).

And, by the way, Lateline Business at 11.00pm had its highest audience of 234,000, again boosted by the financial turmoil and the desire of people to get up to date information. Lateline had 389,000 at 10.25pm, so the normal halving of the audience for Lateline Business didn’t apply. It also points up the abdication of serious news and current affairs by the commercial networks. Q&A beat Seven’s second episode of Ghost Whisperer at 9.30pm by 8,000 viewers, 640,000 to 632,000. 60 Minutes this Sunday night doesn’t go anywhere near the financial crisis, or what it means for Australia, or doesn’t mean. It’s full of light tripe and vaudeville. The same person oversees 60 Minutes (which gets good ratings) and oversees the continuing collapse of Nine News and ACA from 6 pm to 7pm, and especially in Sydney where he is hovering daily. That’d be John Westacott.

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There is a vital question to be asked about the future of Nine’s owner, PBL Media, which is heavily in debt at a time when debt is a nasty four letter word. No doubt there will be a bit of lightweight fluff on Nine’s 8am news from someone from Nine News. Will it be Ross Greenwood who will breathlessly tell us something we have already read or seen elsewhere? If Laurie Oakes is crunching Malcolm Turnbull a few questions about Mr Turnbull’s comments on the Reserve Bank, banks and Governor Glenn Stevens, not only from this week, but from back in February and March, would be helpful. Turnbull is on Q&A next week, or so Tony Jones let slip last night. At least he has chosen a serious program with no pretensions to doing news and current affairs. Q&A‘s audience last night was six times that of Nine’s Sunday News. The Ten network takes news more seriously than Nine does now. It at least has an hour of News in each city each night. ACA is fluffy duck TV, at least Today Tonight, very occasionally, lurches into serious material: probably when management isn’t looking! But a big performance by the ABC last night and especially in Sydney. Sydney is important because that’s where the TV industry is based and the broadcasts there are watched by management very closely. — Glenn Dyer

PBL ‘phases out’ CEO of ACP Magazines Scott Lorson, CEO of ACP Magazines, has been sacked as part of a reshuffle of the management of the magazine arm of PBL Media. Mr Lorson’s duties will be shared by PBL Media’s chief financial officer Pat O’Sullivan who will expand his role and the newly-appointed CFO of ACP Magazines, Matthew Stanton, according to a statement from PBL Media, as the media company repositions itself for the changing media market.

“Scott is a very talented executive and a person of great integrity,” said PBL Media chief executive Ian Law in a statement.

Mr Lorson didn’t have a magazine background. His CV on the ACP website said:

“Prior to his appointment as Chief Executive Officer of ACP Magazines in May 2007, Scott Lorson was the CEO of Ticketek and Chairman of ACER Arena. Scott preciously held several senior executive positions at Optus, including Managing Director of two of the largest trading divisions – Small and Medium Business, and Consumer Multimedia.”

Mr Law is looking to cut $50 million from PBL media’s expenses this year. ACP has been cut hard, even though it has started several new magazines. The most recent is Grazia, a format from Italy. Sales are said to be weak and below budget after a couple of months of marketing. ACP Magazines stopped publishing The Bulletin in January. Mr O’Sullivan is a former Optus CFO and has no magazine experience. Mr Stanton is an accountant, so the cost cutters are in control of ACP! — Glenn Dyer

In defence of spin doctors, published in, interestingly, The Age The greatest news story of the last century broke on April 25, 1953. But it didn’t make banner headlines in daily newspapers and in fact probably never made so much as a page lead story. The event was the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. It was published in a series of articles in the now historic April 25, 1953, issue of Nature. The scientists had discovered the secret to life on Earth. Yet this did not appear in The New York Times, arguably the world’s leading daily newspaper, until the following June. And when it did run, it was on page 17. If you find that amazing, The Times of London did not mention the story until five years later when it was discussed in an obituary for one of the researchers, Dr Rosalind Franklin. This is how some of the greatest newspapers dealt with the biggest story in the halcyon days of newspaper journalism. The reason is that there was a vital ingredient missing in the chain of communications between the scientists and journalists — good spin doctors. — The Age

Bloggers can be trusted, honest. There are now closed and open editorial systems: they are different. They don’t work the same way, or produce the same goods. One does not replace the other. They are not enemies either. Ideas that work in one — that describe the world in that system — often do not work in understanding the other: they mis-describe the world. Because we have the Web… There’s the press, but there is also the press sphere, an open system. Within the press we find the people we know as “professional” journalists. Within the press sphere we find the people formerly known as the audience. Because we have the Web… The means of production — editorially speaking — have been distributed to the population at large. — Jay Rosen, PressThink

Google raising newspaper morgues from the dead? Without the question mark, that was the catchy headline in CNET… which also links to live blogging about the announcement. Here’s the thing itself, an advertising-supported search engine for whatever newspaper archives Google can find online or contract to scan, digitize and index: You can already search the historical archives of many magazines and newspapers through their Web sites, some at no charge and others on a pay-per-view basis. What Google offers is one-stop searching across those databases. For example, a search for “Titanic sinks” — filtered to just 1912 to avoid references to the Titanic as movie or metaphor — found me almost 500 items, starting with the Christian Science Monitor, Atlanta Constitution, Hartford Courant, Chicago Daily Tribune and Boston Daily Globe — but all of those are in the pay-per-view ProQuest Archiver. — Bob Stepno’s Other Journalism Weblog

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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