Tabakoff still calls The Australian home… Media writer Nick Tabakoff bids his fellow journalists at The Australian farewell with apologies to Peter Allen…

MasterChef set to be spoiled by sponsors: It was nice while it lasted: MasterChef Australia‘s success partly depended on the relative unobtrusiveness of the advertising on the Ten Network : sure the brand names and plugs were there and Coles was an obviously big supporter in the ad breaks, but it was hard to notice the ads in between the cooking.

Not so the forthcoming celebrity version to be broadcast in October. Production planning is already well underway and today Ten revealed who its sponsors are, and revealed how integrated many of the ads will be. In fact it has all the hallmarks of payoff time for Ten, which had to take lower ad rates from earlier this year for the first series because it was a buyer’s market and the format was untried on free to air TV in this country.

Now it’s a hit and Ten has been knocked down in the rush for gold by eager spruikers.

So viewers will now have to hear the Harvey Norman ‘Go Harvey Go’ refrain that annoys the hell out of viewers, McDonald’s will be telling us of the joys of a new menu (MasterBurgers?), Coles returns (its $10 dollar value meal ideas really stood out in the original series), plus two other advertisers in Jalna yoghurt and Chris’ Dips, which are not exactly the essence of home cooking, having been whipped up in a factory (and the same for Jalna and much of McDonald’s raw materials).

But here’s the nasty bit for viewers. This is how Ten described the association of the sponsors:

Sponsors will leverage their association with the MasterChef brand through tailored on-air and online elements…

The phrase “tailored on-air” elements should bring a shudder to viewers. You may not be able to notice the cooking for the in segment plugs!

Harvey Norman joins the MasterChef franchise as the show’s principal electrical retail Harvey Norman’s sponsorship includes tailored TV commercials and billboards, in-show play-outs featuring kitchen tips and exclusive website content.

McDonald’s joins Celebrity MasterChef as a principal sponsor. Celebrity MasterChef will provide McDonald’s with a valuable platform to launch a new menu item and drive awareness of Ronald McDonald House Charities. The sponsorship covers TV commercials and in-show play-out segments.

Coles extends its successful association with the MasterChef franchise through an on air and online sponsorship of Celebrity MasterChef, as well as a principal sponsorship of the 2010 MasterChef Australia season. Coles will leverage its sponsorship by stocking the Celebrity MasterChef pantry with fresh produce, groceries and bakery items, an inshow meal challenge, play-out and play-in segments between ad breaks and branded website content including recipes.

First-time sponsor, Jalna will promote its yoghurt product range during CelebrityterChef advertising breaks.

Chris’ Dips joins Celebrity MasterChef as a website sponsor, focusing its advertising campaign exclusively within the online space.

Boring and pervasive comes to mind. You won’t be allowed to avoid the advertising, except by changing channels. — Glenn Dyer

What kind of journalism does $400,000 buy you? It’s been four years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Southeast United States, leaving a mess of social, health and environmental problems in its wake. For any serious major US newspaper, extensive coverage, tributes and analysis would be par for the course when commemorating the anniversary of an event of this magnitude.

But this year, The New York Times Magazine aimed for far loftier goals, commissioning a two-year, 13,000-word investigative piece into a New Orleans hospital where patients are alleged to have been euthanised in the days following the hurricane, estimated by the magazine’s assistant editor Gerald Mazorati to have cost in the order of $400,000 to produce.

A large part of the bill was footed by investigative journalism non-profit ProPublica, which is also hosting some extra content on the story, including an interactive schematic of the hospital, an interactive timeline and extra information on those involved.

In all, it’s a stunning piece of journalism; not just in content — which is a shocking, tragic and truly worthy tale — but to see an ailing media organisation still investing this level of time and resources in quality, long-form investigative journalism in an age where “quick, short and cheap” is the name of the media game, and finding creative ways to finance it, may be the one the very few rays of hope to emerge from the fallout of Hurricane Katrina. — Ruth Brown

Canwest wins ANOTHER extension Some Australian investors and media analysts are getting a bit eager to forecast the sale of the Ten Network in any recapitalisation of its struggling Canadian parent, Canwest. Saturday, Australian time, Canwest announced it has won another extension from its senior lenders on a deadline to come up with a recapitalization plan.

Canwest said discussions between its subsidiary Canwest Media Inc. and an ad hoc committee representing its lenders are continuing, with a new deadline to have an agreement in principle in place by September 11.

Reports in Australia, sourced from Canadian media outlets theToronto Globe and Mail say that the Canwest restructuring has come up against a series of glitches in the past few weeks that are delaying a deal with bondholders.

At the top of that list may be the most unlikely of culprits – a television show called MasterChef Australia.

The popular cooking program has been a major hit on Australian television this year, peaking at 4.1 million viewers, and is one of several shows causing CanWest’s Australian TV network, TEN, to steal audience share from its rivals. Shares in TEN have nearly doubled since February, bringing the value of CanWest’s 50.1-per-cent stake to about $600-million, as analysts predict the network could be well positioned if the economy improves.

With the network’s value suddenly on the rise, CanWest and its biggest creditors have been forced to divide their attention between a debt-for-equity swap and the potential sale of TEN. While the money is a far cry from the $1-billion the Canadian media company thought it could fetch a few years ago, those involved in the restructuring know that they must give a sale serious consideration now.

The stake in TEN is arguably CanWest’s most valuable, and most liquid asset. Though the company has sold smaller assets, including its stake in Canadian sports channel The Score, the impact has been small.

The lenders control the Ten stake, and any cash raised by selling it would go first to them. Canwest would have trouble accessing it directly, unless there was some sort of debt for equity swap. Ten shares are trading around $1.23 at the close last Friday, 23 times its earnings and high because of speculation that it could be part of the restructure. But the stake cannot be sold by Canwest without approval of the lenders, and until that happens, Ten will remain 50.1% owned by Canwest. — Glenn Dyer

Berlusconi attacks media. Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, today launched an all-out attack on Italian and international media which have reported his involvement in sex scandals and questioned its implications. — The Guardian

Don’t get court on Twitter. Watch what you tweet. That’s the message tennis authorities are delivering as the U.S. Open gets set to start, telling players and their entourages to be careful about what they post on the social networking site Twitter. — WA Today

Jessica Biel: internet’s most dangerous. Jessica Biel is the most “dangerous celebrity” on the internet. According to security technology company McAfee, online searches for the actress – who is dating Justin Timberlake – are more likely to spread computer viruses than any other star. — The Age

Beware exploding iPhones. Apple’s iPhone may be the darling of the mobile-phone industry right now, but some users in France aren’t singing its praises, claiming that the device explodes or cracks without warning. — CNET

Mona Lisa speaks Mandarin. Interactive technology has brought the Mona Lisa to life — and Leonardo da Vinci’s enigmatic 16th Century portrait now speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. — BBC News

Media giants to overhaul newspapers. Top two newspaper publishers News Limited and Fairfax Media are stepping up their battle for readers with major overhauls of some of their flagship mastheads in September. — The Australian

Taxman scours Facebook. Tax deadbeats are finding someone actually reads their MySpace and Facebook postings: the taxman. State revenue agents have begun nabbing scofflaws by mining information posted on social-networking Web sites, from relocation announcements to professional profiles to financial boasts. — Wall Street Journal

Peter Fray

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