Trouble at Ten. The central message from yesterday’s weak TV ad revenue data for the six months to June is that the Lachlan Murdoch experiment at Ten has become a very expensive mistake for himself and some of his rich shareholder mates in James Packer, Gina Rinehart and Bruce Gordon.

James Packer isn’t a board member, but he has a representative, and he and Lachlan Murdoch effectively control the network. Since Murdoch took the chairman’s role in early 2012, the TV network’s ad share has fallen from 25.5% in the six months to June 2012 to 21.57% in the last half of last year and 21.9% more recently. The revenue loss has been substantial — the network has lost the best part of $200 million in falling revenue or revenue not won because of low ratings for its weak programming. The shares were around 32c when Murdoch became chairman of the company in February last year — yesterday they closed at 27c.

The revenue slide tells us that Ten needs all the help it can get. McLennan has just done a three-year affiliation deal with Southern Cross Austereo, which agreed to lift its regional affiliation payment from 29% of revenue to 35%. That could net an extra $12 million, but Ten’s ratings have been so weak that Southern Cross’ TV revenues have fallen in the past year: in the first half of 2012-13, TV revenues were $113 million, down 16% on the $135 million for the previous period. With another 16% slide in the June half, Southern Cross revenues would drop to around $100 million. Revenues this financial year have to rise both at Ten and Southern Cross, otherwise both will be in trouble. Raising the affiliation fee for Southern Cross will be akin to getting blood from a stone, so low are the costs at the network’s regional TV business.

But Ten’s ratings will start looking better because the basis for the comparison will be the appalling performance seen in the second half of 2012 with that spate of weak programming such as Everybody Dance Now (hosted by Sarah Murdoch), I Will Survive and The Shire. That should translate to a gentle improvement in ad revenue share and actual dollars flowing through the door. The Australian TV ad market is still weak but looks like it is enjoying a 1% rise in the current half, if Sydney and Melbourne resume growing. — Glenn Dyer

PNG’s a hellhole, Nauru’s A-OK. Daily Telegraph political reporter Gemma Jones was outraged by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s PNG solution for asylum seekers. The Tele splashed its front page on July 20 with the headline “Hellhole solution”, and Jones’ piece begins: “Boat people expecting a new life in Australia will instead be sent to crime-ridden Papua New Guinea …”

Daily Telegraph

Today it is Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s turn, as he has unveiled his plan to build a 2000-tent city on the site of the riot-destroyed Nauru refugee detention facility. Abbott’s plan isn’t a “hellhole” apparently, with the Tele opting for the more neutral “Pacific Solution 2”. The story begins: “Housing thousands of people in tents and leaving refugees in Nauru’s slum district on small welfare payments indefinitely are the centrepieces of the Coalition’s offshore asylum policy …” Yes, there are slums in Nauru, but the Tele reckons it’s not a crime-ridden hellhole.

The Daily Telegraph

Video of the day. Russian President and real-life action hero Vladimir Putin has hooked himself a giant pike while angling, but Russian social media users suspect there’s something fishy with the catch. Some suspect an underwater diver actually caught the monster fish and speared it for Putin. Putin’s been accused of staging wild — or should we say mild — encounters before, with the tiger he controversially tranquillised a few years ago said to have come from a zoo. Oh, those Russians.

Front page of the day. Catalonia’s daily captures train driver Francisco Jose Garzon Amo on his release from jail, after he was charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide from Spain’s deadliest rail disaster …

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW