No pay for ABC shows. The ABC has inserted into all its TV production contracts a provision that the program is not to be made available for sale or licensing to pay TV (read: Foxtel and Austar) for five years, thereby upsetting Foxtel no end. The agreement doesn’t apply to Seven, Ten and Nine, who may want to buy programs (at fat fees) for rebroadcast on the digital channels.

It also makes sure that Foxtel can’t buy and hoard ABC programs with the hope of then providing them to Sky News if it is successful in getting hold of the Australian network contract from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And it cuts the amount of local content that Foxtel will be able to show on some of its channels, meaning it will have to spend more money on production.

Baillieu’s Stalin inspiration. Last week’s anointment of Victorian Liberal blue blood Gordon Rich-Phillips as Minister for Aviation Industry puts the upper house MP in some distinguished deep-red company. It seems the only former global pollies to share the clunky title, linked inextricably to central planning, served inside the Kremlin. Research reveals Rich-Phillips’ predecessors include Stalin-era acolyte Aleksei Shakhurin, who held the title during World War II, and A.P. Systsov, who assumed the mantle during the 1980s. No word yet on the Vic Libs’ plans for the second incarnation of Aeroflot.

Election car park deals. According to our local paper (The Sentinel Times) on November 23, Nationals leader Peter Ryan announced that if the Coalition won the Victorian state election, a $10,000 grant to Korumburra’s Uniting Church would be given for the sealing of its car park. Apparently the car park, near to a local primary school, is used by the local school traffic. The thing is, this car park was sealed around September 6, and (from the South Gippsland Council minutes from August 25, 2010), the council unanimously passed a motion (No.625) to provide $4000 to the primary school for the car park sealing to be carried out with other imminent school development work. It was stated in the minutes that the total cost of the car park sealing would be $13,000 and that the school was committed to 50% of this.

Are the actions of the council and promises by Ryan a bit suss? Here is an election promise to provide $10,000 for a project that had been completed more than two months ago — and the grant announcement was a few days before the election (a blatant attempt to attract votes from teachers, parents and the local church congregation perhaps?) The SG Council themselves acknowledged that this car park land was not owned by council and does not meet council funding guidelines — and neither is it the school’s land; it is private land owned by the church. Council also noted that funding for this type of works was not available from “relevant state funding bodies”.

The council minutes also claimed  they “support the chief executive officer to review the capital works budget to allow for this funding”. So what got taken out of the budget to release $4000 for the car park? And who gets the $10,000 grant now, and for what?

Opera sightings. The last Liberal to lead Victoria, Jeff Kennett, was in a merry mood at the Arts Centre on Saturday night at the interval of Opera Australia’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Was he simply thrilled at Baz Luhrmann’s trippy interpretation? Or was he still basking in the glow of his mob winning back Spring Street? (Former Labor arts minister Peter Batchelor — retiring before being dumped from power — was a notable no-show, despite attending all of the company’s other 2010 productions.) The garishly decorated function room in the bowels of the theatre complex was buzzing with many of Melbourne’s corporate movers and shakers — which doesn’t explain Tottie Goldsmith’s attendance.

Dixon’s pub business. Former Qantas boss Geoff Dixon has been sighted in and around the Bellevue pub in Sydney’s trendy Paddington, which he and mates Mark Carnegie and John Singleton have just bought. Word from the front bar at the Bellie is that Dixon will have a big role in turning around the venue. He was after all the long-term lessee of the Turvey Park Tavern in Wagga Wagga — he owned it for nine years with Sydney publican John Beaumont.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey