Should the Seven Network be getting concerned about the damage being done to Mark Ferguson by his continuing association with THISafternoon on Nine?

Mark Ferguson is Seven’s new signing from Nine and faces being associated with yet another Nine loser, THISafternoon at 4.30pm. Ferguson was there yesterday, the first working day after bolting from Nine as the network allowed the high profile deportee to remain on air.

The program’s audience dipped to 263,000 from 284,000 on Friday and the 321,000 start a week ago (It hit a low of 238,000 on Wednesday).

For Nine to keep Ferguson on air is odd in the extreme and suggests that THISafternoon isn’t long for this world.  If Nine thought it had a chance, it would (this is if it is run by “normal” people, but we know that’s doubtful) have removed Ferguson and put another person in there (Peter Overton the news reader would be ideal) and then allow the show to find its feet.

If Ferguson stays, the audience faces a change in two months or Ferguson could be about to be set up by Nine and blamed for the failure of the program. That would be unfair: the other presenters, Andrew Daddo and Katrina Blowers are barely adequate and the whole idea was concocted by Nine’s news boss, Mark Calvert.

Seven is watching the appearance of Ferguson with amused detachment. Seven still has to decide on a successor for Ian Ross. There was much indignation yesterday at suggestions some at the network want a double header next year. Much denying, which would normally have you wondering.

But Chris Bath will have the gig because there’s a clause in her contract relating to the 6pm news readers’ role and succession. Nine’s Peter Overton was apparently in a similar position.

These moves would have been a decision made at the highest level of the networks. In the case of Nine, management made sure he got the gig by removing mark Ferguson. Ian Ross precipitated the situation at Seven because he wanted to retire.

But the Network had wanted Ian Ross to continue for one more year in 2010.