Aloha, digital television! Hawaii has become the first US state to go fully digital. At 12 noon last Thursday, Hawaiian time, a message appeared on analogue TV sets in use across the islands: “All full-power Hawaii TV stations are now digital.” The state shut down old-fashioned broadcast signals more than a month before the rest of the country is set to make the switch. In the other 49 states, Senate Republicans have already blocked attempts to delay the changeover to digital television: some estimates are that there won’t be near enough coupons to help consumers pay for a digital box by 17 February, when the change is due to happen.

Hawaii’s switch over was treated as something of a trial, but it had to happen earlier because of rare birds: “The Hawaiian dark-rumped petrel, a volcano-dwelling bird that makes its home on the slopes of Maui’s Haleakala, is quickly approaching its nesting season, which prompted rangers to request an early analog to digital TV conversion date so that analog transmission towers can be taken down.” — Glenn Dyer

Overton kills Nine news. The Nine Network’s Sydney news finished its Monday to Friday outing in third place in the rankings last week, a poor outcome for new reader Peter Overton. Thanks to a solid win on Friday night with the one-day cricket from Melbourne boosting the audience, Nine’s Sydney news averaged 291,000 viewers. That compared with 372,000 the week before when it was boosted by the solid audiences for the Sydney test.

Seven’s News averaged 366,000, compared with 293,000 the week before. The ABC was third averaging 296,000 in Sydney last week (303,000 the week before) and ten News averaged 224,000, up from, 195,000. Fusion Strategy’s Steve Allen, who analyses ratings for advertisers, said the move to put Peter Overton into the slot wasn’t good for Nine.

“This is not good for TCN and Overton. Making no headway, in fact losing audience and share. This has proven to be an ill-conceived move. Pay TV the biggest beneficiary,” Allen said on Friday in his daily analysis.

Tonight, Seven’s regular reader, Ian Ross, returns to read the Sydney 6pm bulletin. Chris Bath was the big winner last week for Seven and Ian Ross should do the same this week. Nine will have a better night on Friday with another one day cricket game, this time from Sydney.

Overton read last night’s 6pm news in Sydney and got a big boost from the one day cricket from Hobart with 375,000 viewers compared to the 331,000 watching Seven’s 6pm news in Sydney. — Glenn Dyer

Nine network’s none to subtle on air flogging of Betfair’s punting products. The three tests against South Africa were dominated by the constant on air plugs from Nine commentators, with legends like Richie Benaud, Tony Grieg, Mark Taylor and Shane Warne sounding like TV shrills for Betfair, which is 50% owned by Nine’s former controller, James Packer. A story in the Melbourne Herald Sun last week revealed unease at cricket authorities about the blatant on air plugs.

The two one-day games between Australia and South Africa has seen the on air mention of betting odds disappear. A 30-second commercial for Betfair appeared both nights and the Hotspot graphic was sponsored by Betfair. So the story has gone from a “non-story”, to quote Mr Hurley, to definitive action by Nine to get rid of the blatant on-air plugs which had upset Cricket regulators in Australia and internationally. It won’t go down well in the betting shops in India. — Glenn Dyer

The list of dead and dying American newspapers continues to mount. The New York Times is talking to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim on investing in the publishing company to help it through financial problems. Slim has accumulated a stake of around 6% in the company. The Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported that one option being discussed is a preferred share issue to Slim, with no voting rights but dividends for Mexico’s richest man and the second wealthiest around the world.

The Times is struggling to survive: it is is cutting jobs, freezing pay increases of non-union workers, reducing dividends, trying to to do a sale and leaseback of its New York HQ and selling page-one ads to raise cash to help meet a $US400 million loan payment due this May. New York Times shares lost 13% their value last week, after shedding 58% in 2008. 

Two months after the Tribune Company in Chicago went into bankruptcy, America’s 14th biggest paper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has filed for bankruptcy. The Star Tribune was owned by a private equity group called Avista Capital Partners, which paid $US530 million for it less than two years ago. The previous owners were the McClatchy Co, a struggling major newspaper group. The paper missed an interest payment on more than $US600 million of debt.

The news came on the same day that The Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, said it would cut 12% of its newsroom staff, and a day after USA Today publisher Gannett Co Inc said it would force staff to take a one-week unpaid holiday this quarter. Another major US publisher, EW Scripps Co has warned it could could shut the Rocky Mountain News in Denver if it does not find a buyer soon, and Hearst Corp has said it might close the Seattle Post-Intelligencer if it does not find a buyer in the next two months.

But, the Tribune Co is the biggest failure so far with debts of $US13 billion and assets around $US6 billion less than that. A bankruptcy hearing in the US on Friday produced no further progress on the Tribune’s position. — Glenn Dyer

Associated to cut losses with sale of London Evening Standard. Selling the London Evening Standard to Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev would dramatically transform publisher Associated Newspapers’ finances, at a time when circulation and advertising revenues are coming under severe pressure, according to City analysts. The London evening newspaper is understood to be losing more than £10m a year and mitigating those losses through a sale to Lebedev would help Associated reverse several years of declining profits. “It is obviously making losses at this stage, with circulation and classified advertising in decline, so the assumption is they are doing it to eliminate the losses as opposed to making a bundle by selling it,” said one analyst, who wished to remain anonymous. — The Guardian

New York Post is deadly serious in its war on geese. Today’s New York Post calls for death to all geese in New York City.

After the near-tragedy of Flight 1549, some crazy guy they found named Steve Garber thinks geese should be removed from New York City. Try rounding them up and moving somewhere else, the Post writes, but “If that’s not feasible, Garber said, he sees nothing wrong with shooting them, poking holes in their eggs, shaking their eggs so the embryos are destroyed, wrecking their nests, or taking any number of other measures to eradicate the pesky and dangerous geese.” If it goes like last time, they are totally serious and our local geese population is doomed. Haha, we thought, until we remembered all the other funny Post front pages that got us into a war. — Gawker

Mourn the reporters, not the newspapers. In a dynamic, wealth-creating economy, there have to be losers if there are to be winners. As businesses, newspapers deserve no extra pity. What ought to worry people — for the sake of democracy, not newspaper owners — is a net loss of reporting. Thomas Jefferson famously said that, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” His point was that self-government can’t work unless citizens are well-informed, especially about public affairs. Traditionally, newspapers filled that critical role of informing the public. — Seattle Tacoma News Tribune

The White House is offline and can’t receive messages right now because this chat is off the record. It looks like this may turn out to be the Internet presidency for everyone but the people running it. Ben Smith is reporting that Barack Obama’s White House staff has been informed they will have to give up instant messaging once they enter the White House. Turns out that much like Obama’s Blackberry Google Chat and AIM create too many legal issues to be practical. Smith points out this is also a hindrance to reporters who’ve come to rely on IM as a way to communicate with the campaign staff. — FishbowlNY

Baghdad blogger Salam Pax is back in town. After a two year hiatus the famous Pax, who achieved international recognition in 2003 blogging as bombs fell on Iraq, has returned to Baghdad to pick up where he left off — apparently optimistic about the future of his country. The Guardian has the story here. You can access Pax’s blog here.

The journalism bubble. You’ve heard about the housing bubble. And the dot-com bubble. I’m here to tell you about “The Journalism Bubble”. Anybody who’s paying attention to the state of journalism in the US is aware of the financial crisis facing the news industry. And there’s wide agreement on the cause of the crisis: advertising revenue for print and broadcast is declining, and advertising revenue for internet offerings is not rising fast enough to make up the difference. That’s true. It’s also a completely inadequate explanation for the waves of layoffs, bankruptcies, and outright closures of news organizations. There is a journalism bubble. And the bubble has burst. — Media Shift Idea Lab

Peter Fray

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