Switzer to join ‘Their ABC’? The Guardian Australia has a new media column (to be released weekly on media Mondays), and it’s already yielded one good piece of gossip. Former long-standing Oz media journalist Amanda Meade revealed that the ABC is planning a second conservative show (to supplement Counterpoint, which is hosted by wet Liberal and former Howard minister Amanda Vanstone). Apparently Institute of Public Affairs fellow and former Spectator Australia editor Tom Switzer is the front runner, though The Guardian didn’t manage to get ahold of him before deadline.

Speaking this morning, Switzer confirmed the Guardian’s story to Crikey, saying he was in discussions with Radio National about a new weekly show. “But nothing has been finalised yet. We’ll know if anything happens in a month or so.”

The ABC does have a history, though it’s a potted one, of giving shows to conservatives. Ten years ago now News Corp columnist Tim Blair had a radio show with Imre Salusinszky, now Premier Mike Baird’s chief spinner, called The Continuing Crisis. The prospect of reviving the show was briefly flagged at the last Senate estimates, when Canberra Senator Zed Seselja grilled ABC managing director Mark Scott on why he didn’t have more conservatives on the airwaves (Scott disputed that the personal voting preferences of his presenters was anybody’s business). But Seselja had heard rumours a show was in the works. Asked to confirm, Scott was evasive. “It’s pretty important not to flag our intentions too early… Wait and let the chefs cook. We’ll see if it passes muster. But as I said here before, audition tapes are always welcome.” — Myriam Robin

Saving Peppa’s bacon. Yesterday the Oz’s media diary mused on who’d replace Mark Scott when his term expires (in mid-2016), and Sportsbet.com.au has jumped right into the fray. Oz favourite and Sky News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos is the leading contender, with Sportsbet offering $3.25 a bet on Murdoch’s main man in a cheeky press release sent out on Monday.

Also on the list is director of ABC commercial Robert Patterson (more commonly known by his internet handle “Did you mean: Robert Pattinson?”), placing a close third at $5.00.

Gamblers with a taste for the long odds can choose from a seemingly random grab-bag of media personalities including Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt ($26), Communications Minister/internet inventor Malcolm Turnbull ($41) and national treasure and perpetual YouTube sensation Karl Stefanovic ($101).

In with a distant chance at $501 is the increasingly endangered Peppa Pig. It might sound like something out of Animal Farm, but a bloody rise to power may just be enough to save her bacon. With over a year and a half left of his term, though, punters hoping to make a quick buck off Scott’s successor should remember: sometimes, when you reach for the Sky, you end up chasing a flying pig. — Paul Millar

Standing up for local news. Writing in Fairfax’s opinion pages this morning, Marco Bass, the former Victorian head of news and current affairs at the ABC, laments the increasingly likely loss of the state 7.30 editions, saying they’re the only place where state politics will get covered well on television in many of Australia’s smaller states:

” … the ABC, like most national organisations, is awash with executives with head office myopia. It’s not just the Sydney-or-bust syndrome, it’s more about their fixation on the so called ‘national conversation’.

“As in 1996, localism (except for radio) appears to be the sacrificial lamb for ABC management. But the outcry about lost localism passed in 1996, and doubt management  hopes it will again.”

Some programming advice. On that topic, it’s worth examining the rumoured proposal to replace the local Friday 7.30 programs with a national Project-style chat show. The fact that the reported proposal draws on the Channel Ten show is telling. The Project is old hat — ABC2’s The Roast is edgier. It airs for 10 minutes at 7.30pm on ABC2, it’s original and runs rings around other regular programs looking at news and current affairs with its cynical, satirical look at the current events. Yes, it’s hot and cold, like all similar programs, but why not give it half an hour on Friday, more writing resources and see what happens, and let 7.30 executive producer Sally Neighbour and host Leigh Sales (rumoured to have a role in the new program) have the night off?

The ABC also has Mad as Hell and The Chaser’s Media Circus (not a long-term program, but doing over the media better than the 7.30 mob could ever hope to do) and John Clarke and Bryan Dawe on Thursdays at 6.57pm. The dynamic duo used to be a mainstay of 7.30 when Kerry O’Brien was hosting. But when Neighbour was appointed EP, suddenly Clarke and Dawe were found to be surplus to the way 7.30 was headed and buried at 6.57pm on a Thursday.

Now it seems people at 7.30 and ABC News and Current Affairs want a program that channels the type of commentary and humour Clarke and Dawe have brought to their tiny segment. So why banish them in the first place? (By the way, John Clarke in particular would eat any idea or program constructed by the ABC to replace the state based Friday night programs. He is talented, and this sort of idea would be right up his alley. But don’t tell the workshoppers).

With the BBC selling out to Foxtel (and getting miserable viewing figures as a result and deservedly so), the ABC (and SBS for that matter) will have holes all over its evening schedules from now on. That’s why so many repeats are happening, especially on ABC1 during the day and at night. So it’s time for the ABC to think smart and give younger people a go, instead of going back to the future via 7.30 and the other dinosaurs of TV. And by the way, Shaun Micalleff wants to front a Tonight-style program, from what I hear. — Glenn Dyer

‘Counselling’ for Cairns host after ACMA finds code breach. Cairns morning radio host John “Macca” MacKenzie has been slapped down by the Australian Communications and Media Authority after he said Aboriginal communities had a crime rate 30 times greater than that of the general population.

The comment came during a discussion on radio station 4CA last year of changes to the amount of time public housing tenants are allowed to spend away from their homes, prompting Macca to say (italics ours):

“…we’ve had an influx of people from the communities, thanks largely to the alcohol management plans, but other reasons as well, we’ve had an influx of people coming here for the party and bringing their staggering crime rates from the communities, 30 times greater than ours …”

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, crime rates in Aboriginal communities are two to three times higher than those of the general population (and rise even higher for domestic violence), but the exaggeration wasn’t what 4CA got pinged on. Instead, ACMA pointed to clause 2.2 of the commercial radio code, which requires  that licensees be able to prove “in the preparation and presentation of the program it had used reasonable efforts to ensure that the factual statement was reasonably supportable as being accurate”. 4CA wasn’t able to demonstrate this, leading to the finding it had breached the code.

The station has agreed to “counsel” the presenter over the breach. In its release on the matter, the ACMA noted that it was the first breach by MacKenzie in six years.

The controversial host has had several ACMA rulings go against him and his station in the past. In 2009, Media Watch questioned whether he’d been involved in his own cash-for-comment scandal after the mayor of Cairns appeared in paid spots on his show. However, the subsequent ACMA investigation found he couldn’t be accused of providing cash-for-comment (or failing to disclose commercial interests that might affect his commentary) as he hadn’t personally endorsed the mayor during the segments. It did rule that the station should have disclosed that its ‘Ask the Mayor’ segments were paid advertising. — Myriam Robin

Front page of the day. A good news story …

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