Is it Christmas already? Australia’s News Corp tabloids couldn’t have asked for a better late-night development than the sending of a fleet of Russian warships towards Australia as the G20 summit kicks off. The Courier-Mail and Herald Sun made the most of it.

But in your correspondent’s humble opinion, The Daily Tele had the best pun …

Russia behind the headlines? But not everyone was perhaps as concerned about the Russian chest-beating. Fairfax’s Age and Sydney Morning Herald today both featured another 16-page insert of Russia Behind the Headlines, which, as Crikey reported two months ago, is inserted into the world’s best newspapers by the Russian government to counter what it sees as a hostile Western media (for Fairfax, the insert is a “commercial arrangement”).

Page 2 of today’s section tells readers of a Forbes list that named Russian President Vladimir Putin the world’s most powerful man, while the item below it tells us that US President Barack Obama isn’t popular in Russia (go figure). Page 3 bears a story that appears to be for the benefit of Australian audiences, revealing how the Aussie PM had put MH17 on Putin’s agenda. It quotes the Australian ambassador to Russia Paul Myler, who told a Russian news agency:

“We certainly hope for Russia’s assistance in determining who was directly responsible for the crash … We need Russia’s help in this matter.”

By Thursday morning when the edition was printed, the story was a few hours out of date — yesterday night revealed Abbott and Putin had indeed discussed MH17, but it must be hard to write up-to-date news copy while being forced to go through the advertising department.

The edition also contains an interesting piece on how the Russian media reported the fall of the Berlin Wall (cautiously). But Crikey’s favourite bit of content is a pointer to the RBTH website, where a picture of zombie Lenin invites readers to hop online to see “how our correspondent achieved the Lenin look for his Halloween outfit”. (Australia’s own soft diplomacy broadcaster the Australia Network was canned by the government earlier this year — but it did feature a notable lack of instruction on how to dress up like zombie Steve Irwin. Maybe that would have saved it).

This week, the Russian government also launched Sputnik, a supplement to its Russia Today broadcast service that will focus on promoting the idea of a “multipolar world”. “We will say what others are silent about. The world is tired of one country thinking of itself as exceptional,” former Russia Today head Dmitry Kiselyov during a presentation at Sputnik’s launch on Monday, according to the Moscow Times. — Myriam Robin

What you’ll be watching next year The ABC has revealed a TV line-up of new and returning drama, documentaries, news and comedy for 2015, which extends across its four digital channels and online platform iView. While the programs announced are a clear extension of the content developed over the last several years on the ABC, the broadcaster also announced some substantial leaps forward in its online presence.

Returning comedies include Gruen, Utopia and Please Like Me.

After her lauded stint as anchor on 7.30 this year, Sarah Ferguson will be at the centre of the broadcaster’s news documentaries, hosting one series exploring the turbulent years of the Rudd and Gillard governments and appearing in another where she immerses herself in a women’s refuge to shine a light on domestic violence, called No Excuses!

There’s also a suite of four documentaries commemorating the Anzac Centenary: The Waler: Australia’s Great Warhorse, Lest We Forget, What?, The Waves of ANZAC Cove (starring Sam Neill) and Vietnam ANZACs

Notably not on the line-up are The Code, The Chaser’s Media Circus, Rake, Upper Middle Bogan and Peter Helliar’s It’s A Date. — Read Ben Neutze’s full break-down of the line-up at The Daily Review.

Eddie’s AFL reality show gets the boot “Not happy Brian” might be the mildest comment Eddie McGuire has to say at the moment about Foxtel content boss Brian Walsh, if reports from TV land about McGuire’s surprise hit The Recruit are any guide. The Recruit was a Fox8 hit this year from McGuire Media. Hosted by FM radio host Ryan Fitzgerald, it was a multi-part observational reality program where a group of 50 would-be AFL players were put through their paces, assessed and gradually flicked, with a final three chosen and the eventual winner guaranteed a slot as a class B rookie with an AFL club.The series was so successful that it was recommissioned for 2015 — but suddenly, in the past week, there are reports claiming it has been decommissioned for 2015 and will be recommissioned for 2016.

All very confusing, and our Eddie has reportedly had some unprintable things to say about Foxtel and all who serve in it. In fact the reported change of heart by Foxtel has stunned others in the TV industry — The Recruit was a successful program in that it attracted viewers (one episode had a very solid 133,000 viewers on Fox8) and married reality TV (which is fading insofar TV viewers are concerned) with sport, and AFL at that, the most watched winter sport. The idea had been floating around TV and sport for years, but McGuire’s company, McGuire Media, managed to make it a reality — the NRL was kicking itself (as was Nine) that they couldn’t get the same idea up.

The conspiracy-minded are wondering if the decision has anything to do with Foxtel sniffing around the Ten Network in partnership with the American Discovery channel, with the pay TV giant needing to hold onto as much cash as possible in case it is needed. Let’s hope the reports are not accurate, because The Recruit in its first series was a better reality-type program for male viewers than others on offer (the others, such as The Voice, Masterchef, Beauty and the Geek Australia, The X Factor and Big Brother all skew towards female viewers). The Block, House Rules and My Kitchen Rules skew towards males, females, and couples, but older than the younger demos The Recruit managed to tap into. It would in fact do well on Ten, or even Seven (on its AFL/sport channel, 7mate). — Glenn Dyer

Main channels deserted, but oldies still pull viewers Last night wasn’t a night not to boast about for TV networks — it was a night when hundreds of thousands of viewers voted with their remotes and deserted the main channels, but stayed loyal by watching the digital channels in near record numbers.

The combined audiences of the five networks’ digital channels was greater than the audiences watching any of the main channels. It’s not a rare occurrence these days, especially in the past month as TV audience viewing fades somewhat, but last night it was very, very noticeable. Those digital channels have a mixture of new and used programming — mostly used on the top-rating 7TWO, GO and Eleven. It was a real thumbs down from TV viewers to the main channel offerings (The ABC at least tried with the excellent Mad As Hell and the more than OK Chaser’s Media Circus, AKA Media Watch with aggro).

In metro markets, a massive 35.1% of the free-to-air audience last night watched the digital channels of Nine, Seven, Ten, the ABC and SBS. In regional areas, a huge 39.3% of the FTA audience tuned into those channels. Oztam figures show that 16.9% of the national TV audience last night watched Foxtel (the highest share of the week so far). That means well over half the national TV audience last night were not watching the main channels, or watched the main channels from time to time. But before anyone pipes up and says “TV crisis looms”, remember: 83.1% of the national TV audience watched free-to-air TV last night. — Glenn Dyer

Video of the day. An extraordinary interview …

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW