Strewthwatchwatch. With Christian Kerr apparently benched for the duration of Strewthpremo James Jeffrey’s absence, Natasha Robinson took over — and filled the column with two items about Crikey, including one about Strewthwatch, somewhat mitigating the column’s post-Christian return to form with a couple of actual yarns. Ms Stand-in Strewth describes our Kerr ratio — of stories that are actually new to readers, i.e. stories, to those got from meeja while morosely surfing the net — as “brain-stretching”. Oh dear. Let’s hope she’s not a courtesy hire, like Miranda Devine. Given that Jeffrey actually works the column, this may be your last Strewthwatch — sad news for the News Corp employees who contacted us to say how much they enjoyed Christian being nailed for phoning it in. — Guy Rundle

ABC staff ask for transparency. Following Crikey’s report yesterday that budget cuts to the ABC are likely going to be well north of the 4% figure floated in the press earlier in the year, ABC staff are gathering signatures for a petition asking the ABC board to be more transparent in its plans for the ABC. They want board minutes published, and a public consultation about the ABC’s role in society, as opposed to changes being foisted on the organisation’s staff as a done deal.

“Staff reps from both MEAA and CPSU, along with ABC community supporters are frustrated by two key issues,” wrote 7.30 NSW senior producer and MEAA house committee member Greg Miskelly in an email sent to all ABC staff. “Firstly, a lack of real information about the size and impacts of impending cuts. Secondly, an absence of consultation and genuine public debate about the ABC’s role in Australian society. This follows great pain at the redundancy process at Australia Network over the last month.”

The group has also started a public petition calling on the board to be more transparent, available here.

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has again declined to discuss specific figures regarding the ABC budget cut, including the $100 million (10% of the ABC’s total budget) figure which Crikey reported was being considered. “But, I won’t pretend that they are anything other than substantial,” he told journalists at the Bingham Cup announcement at Rose Bay this morning. — Myriam Robin

Oz goes up. Is this part of Julian Clarke’s grand plan to turnaround the ailing News Corp Australia, as well as pleasing the tussock’ at the top of The Australian? We hear (from newsagents) that as of Monday the Oz‘s Monday-to-Friday cover price rises from $2.20 to $2.50. That’s an inflation beating rise of more than 13% — headline inflation is currently running at 3%.

Both News Corp and Fairfax have been raising the cover price of their metro papers in recent years — it’s a way to keep revenues up during times of circulation decline, though some do doubt its effectiveness if it merely leads to further circulation drops. The Oz raised the cover price in August last year too — it went from $2 to $2.20 then.

Ten on a fiscal slide. Seven and Nine TV Networks have given the struggling Ten network a major headache as it prepares to underline its 2013-14 financial year next Sunday night. Ten is expected to produce another loss-making year after reporting losses caused by falling TV ratings, ad revenues, slumping earnings and massive asset impairment costs of more than $300 million after tax in 2012-13. Ten reported a sharp fall in EBITDA to $10 million in the six months to February 28 this year, from $34.9 million for the first half of 2012-13. The second half is likely to be not much better, if at all, so the loss of revenue could see total ad revenues for the network fall to around $600 million from $630 million, according to guidance issued in June (a fall of 3.5% to 4.5% in revenue was forecast).

Ten’s regional affiliate, Southern Cross Media Group has given Ten the lead about what could lie ahead for the struggling Number Three network. Southern Cross was forced to impair its regional assets, according to the 2013-14 annual report released earlier this month — a total of $392 million in impairment losses.

Ten’s board is now facing a very difficult situation. The one thing keeping Ten afloat is the $200 million loan from the Commonwealth Bank. That is now below $150 million and still falling. If that continues to be eaten up and revenue continues to be weak, more cost cuts will be certain, and the question of solvency will raise its ugly head in 2015. — Glenn Dyer

Front page of the day. It’s not often that a Victorian public servant finds themselves on the front page of a British daily, but yesterday’s Daily Telegraph features Dr Sonia Sharp, one of the officials in the firing line over revelations of widespread sex abuse in a local council in the UK. As has been reported in Crikey, Sharp is now a senior public servant in the Victorian education department.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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