Johnston crosses over. Last day in the chair today for respected SMH/Age business editor Eric Johnston, who has been poached by The Australian to replace Geoff Elliott, who is off to PR outfit Cosway. Johnston took over from Mark Hawthorne about two years ago, and was soon implementing the difficult merger of the business desks of the Smage and AFR. That’s been a decidedly mixed proposition with stars like Adele Ferguson and Michael West continuing as shining examples of the kind of journalism Fairfax does best — their copy is not shared with the AFR — while other reporters often find themselves pulled in different directions by editors of two mastheads with very different readership, copy requirements and angles in mind. Johnston is an experienced editor who has previously worked for AAP, Dow Jones (before News bought the WSJ) and spent five years at the AFR before joining the metros. He leaves Fairfax on good terms after some nine years and is replaced by prolific Mat Dunckley, formerly Melbourne bureau chief of the AFR. The Australian’s business section has been looking under strength with undoubted talents not always well used and an awkward interaction with the Business Spectator stable of commentators. A real opportunity. — Paddy Manning

Shock ABC hire. The ABC has snared a senior executive from a commercial network — and the Nine Network at that. Richard Finlayson, Director ABC Television, revealed in a statement this morning that he has hired Nine’s head of development and digital, Adrian Swift, as ABC TV’s Head of Content and Creative Development. Swift’s appointment follows the move by Finlayson to grab Jon Casimir (The Gruen shows) from CJZ, (Cordell, Jigsaw, Zapruder) as ABC TV’s Head of Entertainment.

Swift is one of Australia’s most experienced media executives, having worked across multiple platforms — from newspapers to television, terrestrial to multi-channel TV environments, production to senior board level executive responsibility. He’s worked for Nine (sport), SBS (news and then head of sport), and in London for a decade in TV and digital/online. In today’s statement, Swift was quoted as saying “Nine has been a big part of my career from my early days as a reporter, to becoming a producer, to my latest executive role, and the past three years working with Michael Healy, David Gyngell, Andrew Backwell and the team at Nine have been a highlight.” Swift replaces replaces Stuart Menzies (who was close to Kim Dalton, the former director of ABC TV). Several other long time ABC TV executives have also departed in the past few months.

“Joining the ABC is very much a creative decision. To have the ability to help the national broadcaster in its significant role in reflecting and defining Australian culture through the most powerful medium of all — television — is an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down.” Besides his development and digital roles, Swift was executive producing major shows including The Voice (which suffered a sharp fall in viewing this year from 2013, especially the final this week which lost 1.2 million viewers nationally from a year ago). — Glenn Dyer

Nine’s Kiwi dramas. Under Australian broadcasting laws, free-to-air public broadcasters have to provide “250 points” of new-release drama programs per year, with different types of programs qualifying for different rates of point accumulation. In 2013, Nine easily met the 250 point minimum. But 51% of its points were earned by airing content first produced in New Zealand, which, through a quirk of the broadcasting rules, counts as Australian content. Much life Fairfax outsourcing its subediting across the Tasman, making television in New Zealand is cheaper, so Nine’s audiences (on GO!) were treated to a smorgasbord of Kiwi content like Underbelly: New Zealand in 2013.

However it’s not a strategy copied by the rival networks, as figures published today by the ACMA reveal. Just 7% of Seven’s drama content was produced in New Zealand, and Ten’s figure was even lower — just 4%. Free TV Australia put a positive spin on the figures, saying in a press release that the figures show the “Free TV broadcasters continue to exceed their required levels of Australian content”.

The ACMA didn’t let Nine count two programs towards its children’s programming quota after finding it had committed technical breaches by not getting  those programs classified by the ACMA before airing them. — Myriam Robin

Hockey doesn’t rate. Most books by politicians don’t sell, as Crikey told you this month. But what about books about politicians?

Michael Crutcher of media agency 55comms tweeted this yesterday afternoon …

When did Madonna King’s biography of Joe Hockey come out? Yesterday. The very same day it was discounted.

The truth is, when it comes to non-fiction books in Australia, only books about Gallipoli or cooking tend to sell. It’s hard to make an impression on the reading public, and the glut of books about pollies can’t be helping right now.

Front page of the Day. Cold War II.

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Peter Fray
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