Top ABC managers depart. ABC Radio National staff have been left dazed and confused by the departure of manager Louise Evans after only six months in the job. It was also announced this morning that ABC TV’s head of entertainment Jennifer Collins is leaving to take a role at independent production company Screentime. In an email to staff yesterday, ABC Radio boss Kate Dundas said:

“While Louise has emphasised to me how much she has enjoyed her time with RN to date, the Manager’s role has not turned out to be one she wants to continue with over time. As such we both think it’s best for Louise to step aside now. Louise’s time with RN has however further cemented her love of radio and I have asked her to stay on, to work with NewsRadio for a period to assist Manager NewsRadio Helen Thomas to deliver one of the network’s key strategic priorities.”

Evans, a former managing editor at The Australian, could not be reached for comment this morning, but ABC insiders said she had not found her home in the bureaucratic, resource-limited world of Radio National. “There was much more upward referral in the ABC than she was used to,” an ABC insider said. Much of her time also had to be devoted to the “co-location” project, which will see the RN department at Ultimo demolished and rebuilt over summer. In a move aimed at encouraging the sharing of ideas, RN is going totally open-plan. No employees — including managers and high-profile presenters — will have their own offices.

RN will soon announce its programming slates for summer and 2014. Crikey understands next year’s schedule will have only minimalist changes and that John Doyle (aka rampaging Roy Slaven) will not return for Summer Breakfast. Because of the Sydney renovations, RN reporter Cathy Van Extel and Sunday Extra host Jonathan Green will fill in for Fran Kelly from Brisbane and Melbourne respectively. — Matthew Knott

Murdoch’s $9 billion ambition. Eighty-two-year old Rupert Murdoch has a gleam in his eye. He revealed this morning, in the first-quarter financial report of 21st Century Fox, an ambition to boost the company’s operating profit by 50% or $US3 billion in the next three years. Murdoch said:

 “The investment we are making, including the launch of FXX and Fox Sports 1, will drive future sustained growth toward our stated 2016 target of $9 billion of OIBDA [operating income before depreciation and amortisation] and beyond.”

That newly stated ambition took attention away from what was a flat first quarter for Murdoch family’s major company, as it missed market earnings forecast because of weak film results and rising investment in new TV and cable network channels and product. In fact it looks like it will be a flat year, judging by the miserable $30 million increase in operating profit.

21st Century Fox this morning reported first-quarter total segment operating income before depreciation and amortisation of $US1.62 billion, compared with the $US1.59 billion reported in the first quarter of 2012-13 (before the company was created in the split on June 28 of this year). The slim 2% improvement was due to growth at the company’s direct broadcast satellite group and its TV operations in the US, offset principally by declines at the Filmed Entertainment segment and cable. 21st Century Fox made an operating profit of $US6.26 billion in 2012-13 on revenues of $US27.68 billion.

On an after-tax basis, earnings for the quarter fell to $US768 million (or $0.33 US a share), compared with $US2.25 billion (or $0.95 US a share) reported in the September quarter of 2012. Stripping out a series of one-offs from both results, 21st Century Fox said earnings per share fell to 33c a share from an adjusted 38c in the same quarter of 2012. — Glenn Dyer

That’s so Gai. Punters weren’t the only ones celebrating when Melbourne Cup favourite Fiorente was first past the post yesterday. Headline writers across Australia were pumping their fists and priming their pens to come up with puns on trainer Gai Waterhouse’s name.

Cup scoop to come. Fairfax sport reporter Will Brodie was champing at the bit on Fairfax websites yesterday before the big race … at least he didn’t hazard a guess at the name of the winner.

Will Brodie

Kunta Kinte’s return. The History Channel announced overnight that it will remake Roots, the 1970s mini-series that was one of the most-watched programs of all time. The History Channel acquired the rights from Mark Wolper, the son of the program’s original producer, the late David L. Wolper. Mark Wolper will be EP of the project.

Roots was the world’s first mini-series; it ran for 12 hours over eight consecutive nights, premiering on ABC TV in the US in January 1977. With the largely black cast and the storyline about slavery, it was the most unexpected hit in US TV history. The final episode was watched by 100 million viewers, almost half of the US population at the time, and 85% of all television homes saw at least some of the series. It had 36 Emmy nominations and won nine. No production start date has been given so far, and the History Channel is in talks with writers. That means it probably won’t be seen until 2015 at the earliest. — Glenn Dyer

Video of the day. Some time ago, a video allegedly surfaced of Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, though the video has not been released. Ford today admitted smoking crack, but in his defence, it was “in a drunken stupour”. He says he is not going to resign. Why would you?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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