ABC staff turn poetic in bid to save Lateline. Many of the ABC’s news and current affairs staff have signed a petition urging the ABC board to keep Lateline. The push comes after it was revealed last week that the producers of several ABC programs had been told their return next year was uncertain. Programs in the firing line include Lateline, the state editions of 7.30, and several Radio Australia programs.

In the petition, staff push back against a perception by ABC brass that Lateline is not as influential as it has been in the past. The petition reads:

“Lateline consistently generates original exclusives that are followed by other media and ABC programs. An enviable list of international leaders, commentators, federal ministers, premiers, corporate leaders and global opinion-makers appear on the program. A small team of skilled staff ensures Lateline is the first to provide thorough analysis of momentous international events such as the conflict in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq, Gaza and the ebola crisis. A bigger, better digital strategy could see this original high quality, value-added content shared with a wider audience.”

In response to the email distributing the petition, senior ABC reporter Peter Lloyd sent out an impassioned plea to his colleagues urging them to also protest the cuts in radio news and radio current affairs.

“If radio news is to shrink along with [radio current affairs] to enable the growth of digital then this is surely a false choice, and one  that must be challenged. I don’t know if that’s the story. I think we must be told the strategy as well as the tactics. And I worry that we are structuring our capitulation without the hard war on the idea of shrinking the ABC. Defeat is not a safe place to start.

“The myth-makers and self servers tell us that a strong defence force keeps us safe. A strong ABC is the centurion that guards this country too. I’ve spent too many years living in, working in and reporting on broken and rorted countries not to learn this: the common denominator is a weak media sector. All of us keep the bastards honest, and beware the politician. Every one of them benefits when we lose a second on air, or a soldier in the trench.  This is not career. It is a vocation; and its time the army spoke out. How can one media company with an aspiration to make a buck in content online be so fatal to the value proposition of a media that the public owns?  Rupert Murdoch is not the problem. The problem is that elected leaders confuse his interests with the national interest.  It’s a kind of treason that a laid back, country without a history of existential threats walk into before it realises the mistake.”

The petition will be presented to the ABC board before their next meeting on Wednesday. — Myriam Robin

Swanning about. Where did Sydney Swans supporters go for Saturday’s telecast? If I were the AFL and the Seven Network, I’d be wondering why the Sydney market failed to support the Swans in their Saturday grand final defeat after all the positive publicity for the team, which finished the regular season as minor premiers and then won their two finals. The lack of support for the Swans in Sydney on Saturday was a bigger news story for the media managers than Seven’s total audience around the country of 3.718 million (2.813 million metro and 905,000 regional viewers). That was up marginally from last year’s win by Hawthorn (the 87,000 extra viewers was a rather weak rise of 2.4% on last year).

So in terms of the three previous grand final appearances, support for the Swans in Sydney fell sharply. So what’s the explanation for why viewers in the Sydney market abandoned the Swans — 375,000 fewer people watched on Saturday than they did back in 2005, and 65,000 less than in 2012.

Maybe it was down to the fact that the Swans were losers from the first quarter. But the quarterhour ratings show there were 536,000 watching at 2.30pm, 548,000 at 4.45pm, and 518,000 at 5pm. The audience peaked at 589,000 and fell to a low of 482,000, but then rebounded back above half a million and stayed there. So the poor ratings weren’t caused by fickle Sydney viewers turning off. Of course the ratings don’t cover out-of-home viewing in pubs and clubs, but that applies to Melbourne and Brisbane as much as it does for Sydney. Nor can the good weather in Sydney be blamed, because it was good weather in Melbourne for the game.

In fact you can argue that in TV terms, Sydney’s attractiveness to football fans at grand final time has weakened remarkably since the 2005 win. That belies the fact that game attendance in Sydney and Swans membership numbers have both risen, especially in the 2014 season. For some reason, that popularity didn’t drag ‘em in at home, in front of their TV to watch Seven’s coverage. — Glenn Dyer

Sub-columning. Productivity Commissioner Peter Harris isn’t on Twitter — at least as far as we know — but he appears to know all about sub-tweeting, the much-maligned phenomenon of complaining about someone on Twitter without mentioning their Twitter handle. In his comment piece in The Australian Financial Review today, Harris — who as a deputy secretary of the Department of Transport once threatened in a speech to “eat Tim Fischer’s hat” if he were proved wrong on an aviation issue — laments the arrival of a “new theme” or “new narrative” in economic reform, versus the “apparently old hat reform agenda” (presumably not Fischer’s hat). Harris devotes nearly 900 very sensible words to the issue but, strangely, not once does he attribute this “new theme” to anyone — not the Business Council of Australia, which urged a return to “winner-picking” several weeks ago, disguised under a policy of favouring Australia’s strategically strong industries, nor former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry, who recently riffed on the theme of winner-picking while exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the “old hat” reform narrative that he christened “Australian mercantilism”. It was left to the AFR’s Jacob Greber to separately explain who specifically was now off Harris’ Christmas card list. Crikey’s experience of Harris — an outstanding policy mind born and bred in the Hawke-Keating reform era — is that he’s not exactly reticent when it comes to detailing his views on pretty much anything, so his reluctance to name winner-picking names is doubly curious. I guess we should consider it a general warning. — Bernard Keane

Is it a burqa or a niqab? The Daily Telegraph got one of its reporters to don a niqab and walk around Sydney to gauge reactions. It’s a well-rehearsed trope that the paper has tried at least twice before in recent memory (see exhibit one and two). But while the piece itself correctly identifies the garment worn by reporter Tanya Smart as a niqab, the caption on the photo is a little looser …

Where to for Liz Murdoch? Variety and other US media websites are reporting this morning that Elisabeth Murdoch’s time at the family company 21st Century Fox might be ending. The reports say Murdoch’s future with Fox has been raised by the news that former senior BSkyB executive, Sophie Turner Laing has been named as the incoming CEO of the merging Shine-Endemol production group being assembled by Fox and Apollo (which is also injecting its smaller Core Media assets). Murdoch is presently chair of Shine (she controlled 58% of the group when it was sold to the old News Corp several years ago). She netted close to US$250 million from the deal. She has remained chair of Shine.

Earlier this year, Fox and Endemol announced plans to merge (along with Core Media) to form the world’s largest independent TV production group. Work on the integration has continued and, a month or so ago, Core Media Group president Marc Graboff left the business after his group was absorbed. Turner Laing’s appointment means Endemol CEO Just Spee and his Shine Group counterpart, Alex Mahon will leave once the merger is done. The deal is currently going through regulatory approval processes in the UK and Europe. Work is said to be underway on merging Endemol and Shine’s US arms, which is the major part of the deal.

Variety reported:

“The lack of specificity on Murdoch’s long-term role at the combined Shine-Endemol-Core has raised eyebrows internally at Fox, given her high profile as a media exec and the fact that she is the daughter of 21st Century Fox chairman-CEO Rupert Murdoch. A rep for Fox declined comment on Murdoch’s role in the merged entity … One clue to Elisabeth Murdoch’s future plans might be found in her investment in April in an animation startup venture, Locksmith Animation, run by former Aardman Features creative director Sarah Smith. Murdoch made a personal investment, apart from any Shine Group association, and is Locksmith’s primary shareholder. Speculation inside Fox is that Murdoch may leave the company again for a time to focus on Locksmith and possibly other investments.”

Glenn Dyer

A time of nostalgic crime. Tired of Father Brown, and his cheeky piety in solving crime, 1950sstyle, with an assist from God? Worried that Midsomer Murders might be running out of bodies? Looking for a new Heartbeat on your screen among the dark dross of modern British crime drama? British crime drama’s modern “reality” and blackness of storyline and character is on the nose, and nostalgia seems to be enduring in the case of Midsomer and its neverending murders.

Well, ITV is going back to the kinder, gentler, whiter 1950s of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown to bring us yet another conventional British crime series called Grantchester, starring a man of God — but of the establishment Anglican kind. So what is it about God and crime in Britain in the 1950s? One period piece in Father Brown is OK — two is simply overkill. The current Father Brown is from the BBC — an ITV forebear (Associated TV) produced a series back in 1974 starting the late Kenneth More. ITV sounds like it’s going back to the establishment roots that continue to ground Downton Abbey.

Grantchester clearly won’t be as dark or negative in spirit and storyline, or as nasty as many of the modern UK crime series, which seems to be what a lot of crime series viewers want these days. And how can modern crime series on TV top the grubby, brutal reality of UK life and crime — the race riots, the race killings, the abuse of children and women and men by the likes of Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, Fred Wests and the many other terrible cases of abuse and murder that have emerged in Britain in the past 30 years. No wonder UK TV wants to go back to the more innocent days of the 1950s, before modern British culture started emerging in the 1960s. The times of Father Brown and Grantchester were kinder, gentler, without the questions, ambiguities and other complications of modern life which make crime dramas hard to set in a believable package. — Glenn Dyer

Front page of the day. The New York Post “welcomes” the littlest Clinton …