Nine gets creative with local content The Nine Network is indulging one of its oldest tricks which, if a manufacturer or retailing tried it, would find them being prosecuted by the ACCC for “passing off”. That’s promoting a program as something that it isn’t. All networks engage in it from time to time, but Nine seems to be the main offender. (Seven did it with an early series of Gordon Ramsay last year, for instance. It wasn’t new, it was very old and yet we were left with the impression from the promotions, that it was current.)

So effective has been Nine’s latest ‘passing off’ that the TV heads at The Daily Telegraph in Sydney fell for the story that Nine was bringing a new program called Customs to the screen next Monday at 7.30pm hosted by Vince Colosimo as a lead in to the prequel of Underbelly which kicks off with a two hour episode from 8.30pm. New program yes, but the unstated inference was cute: Customs was held out to be a program of no real identity in Nine’s press release, but the strong inference in the press release is that it’s Australian (i.e. add Australian Vince to the mix, a program called Customs , in the 7.30 to 8.30pm timeslot where Seven ran its Border Security/The Force programs). The on air promos last night had Vince on screen and people with neutral accents talking in the background, though I did note a British accent in one of segments. The Tele fell for the line, hook and sinker.

The Nine Network is banking on a new TV show hosted by Vince Colosimo to lure big audiences to the premiere of Underbelly next week. Nine has announced the former Underbelly star will host a new TV show about border control called Customs . It will premiere next Monday at 8pm, prior to the anticipated prequel of the crime drama Underbelly – A Tale Of Two Cities. In much the same vein as the Seven Network’s popular reality TV series Border Security, Customs will go behind the scenes to look at criminal activity including drug traffickers and people smugglers.

But if you read the Nine press release, it’s very carefully worded:

Drug traffickers, people smugglers and international terrorists, caught red-handed when CUSTOMS, presented by Vince Colosimo, premieres this Monday, February 9 at 8pm, followed by the premiere of Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities at 8.30pm on Channel Nine. See first hand border control on an international scale and discover what it takes to be a Customs officer and the way they deal with the increasing importation of illegal material and drugs. Customs officers are in a constant war with smugglers in ports, airports and at sea. Their skills are consistently put to the test by people that you would least expect. Would you be able to spot the drug trafficker? This is all part of the job of a Customs officer…

Clever? But there’s a reason for this coyness. You see, Customs is a British program. And to fit Vince’s effort in Nine has made the first change of ratings, even before the program went to air. It had an ep of Big Bang Theory (from the same producers as Two And A Half Men which is down to just two eps on Monday nights for now). Big Bang has had its big bang and is gone, replaced by Customs with Vince and another example of TV’s sleight of ratings, Nine style. — Glenn Dyer

The US has delayed for four months, the introduction of digital TV on the mainland. Hawaii went to full digital transmissions on 15 January, but the Obama administration had sought the delay because of delays in providing vouchers people who have to buy set top boxes to receive digital signals. The US House of Representatives joined the US Senate on Wednesday and approved delaying this month’s planned nationwide shift to digital television until June. The House had rejected it last week because it didn’t get the required majority.

The House voted 264-158 to delay the switch from an analog to a digital signal, which had been scheduled for 17 February, until 12 June. The bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The government has been providing Americans who rely on over-the-air signals with a $US40-dollar coupons to meet some of the cost of buying a digital converter box. This program has exhausted its funds (The Bush Administration didn’t care and let it run down) and according to the research and ratings group, Nielsen Co., more than 6.5 million American households are not prepared for the shift. Many of the unprepared are low-income households, minorities, seniors or disabled, according to Nielsen. Most Americans don’t need the boxes as they receive their TV through Pay TV cables. — Glenn Dyer

Internet gets filtered, TV gets a wrist-slap. The self-regulating Nine network will have to put in place more rigourous program classification procedures for future series of Underbelly , and will have to reclassify as MA all episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares . The Australian Communications and Media Authority gave WIN a similar “penalty”. The folks claiming that compulsory Internet “filtering” is about introducing a system “just like TV”, like the Australian Christian Lobby’s Jim Wallace, have just been proven wrong again. If a website has MA material online without an age-verification system, it’s either issued with a takedown notice (if hosted in Australia), or added to the ACMA blacklist — which in Rudd’s plan will permanently block it for all Australians. If a TV station does the same, it gets a tiny little wrist-slap. How is this “the same”? — Stilgherrian

Journalism getting more dangerous …and not just because there aren’t any jobs. According to a report from the International Federation of Journalists, 109 journalists died while on assignment during 2008. While the number was lower than 2007 — when 175 journos lost their lives — the IFJ worries that “2009 may be deadliest year yet for journalists,” because of increased violence in Gaza among other places. In total, 10 journalists were killing during the first month of the new year. “The welcome relief brought about by the decline in the killings of journalists in 2008 has been short-lived;” Aidan White, IFJ general secretary, said at a press conference. — FishbowlNY

Facebook at five: what the future holds. Every generation that logs on thinks they invented the Internet. With Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg may actually have done it. His social network turns five today, and in that time, it has actually changed the world. Not necessarily for the better, and certainly not in ways Zuckerberg originally expected or intended. The party line on Facebook is that the site is merely a reflection of the real world, not a substitute for it. — ValleyWag

Getty shutting Scoopt citizen journalism photo site to focus on core business. Getty Images is giving up on Scoopt, the citizen photojournalism agency it bought from Glasgow-based founder Kyle MacRae in 2007. The picture wire will stop taking uploads this Friday and close the site entirely on March 6. Scoopt invites users to upload pictures and gives 40% of royalties if it can sell images on to photo desks at papers and other agencies. It’s not clear how many photos Getty had managed to scoop from paparrazzo wannabes since the acquisition. — The Guardian

Google develops scary stalker technology . Millions of people will be able to track each and every move by friends and family through their mobile phones, thanks to a new feature launched by Google. The new system dubbed “Latitude” uses a digital map to show automatically exactly where a loved one is at any time, sometimes pinpointing their location to a few metres. Google said that Latitude was an opt-in feature, meaning that both parties have to consent to being spied on. But privacy campaigners said they were appalled by the idea, and children’s groups said the Government should intervene and look into whether the system was fully secure. — Times Online

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Peter Fray
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