From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Harvey to Sunday Night? There’ll be cheers in the Sunday Night offices tonight after the program reached a healthy million viewers for last night’s episode. But Ms Tips hears the program is understandably in disarray after executive producer Mark Llewellyn started a dramatic office punch-up with producer Paul Waterhouse in October. News came late on Friday that Seven management had sacked Llewellyn (sorry, had “boned him”) following an “exhaustive” HR investigation of the incident, but the announcement left open the possibility Llewellyn would stay as a consultant to either Sunday Night or one of the network’s other programs. This has been treated with some measure of scepticism. Many of the program’s staff are, according to a tipster, “prepared to walk” if Llewellyn is allowed too close to his old stomping ground.

So who’ll replace him? The rumour is that Seven management are trying to hire senior 60 Minutes producer Gareth Harvey, floating a lucrative offer to bring him back from his European sojourn in Tuscany. Harvey has been involved with Sunday Night on and off in the past two years, where he had a lot of ideas about how to improve the show. Facing some level of resistance to these, he decided to focus on 60 Minutes, but putting him in charge of Sunday Night now that there’s a vacancy would be a perfectly logical choice. There’s not a lot of people who can do the Sunday Night/60 Minutes style of investigative journalism that also brings in the ratings figures. While many of Australia’s best long-form TV journalists are employed at public broadcasters, their lack of commercial experience means few get a look-in for these types of jobs. The staff at Sunday Night figure Harvey’s experience and international reputation could help calm things down behind-the-scenes, where tensions have been building for some time.

Of course, the real mystery remains — why on earth was Llewellyn involved in a punch-up with his own reporters? While the results of Seven’s investigation were promptly revealed to the media, the causes were not. If you’ve got any ideas, do get in touch.

Bishop gets emojiful. Foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop found a new way to interact with voters recently, and took it to a new level last night, using emoji to tell stories and interact with others on Twitter, until her phone was apparently taken away.

Ms Tips applauds Bishop’s foray into emoji — she seems to have taken to the medium like a duck to water, unlike many of her fellow baby boomers. It’s pretty much standard for politicians to use Facebook and Twitter now, and an increasing number are using Instagram, but we encourage all politicians to try their hands (or thumbs) at emoji, which are popular with younger smartphone users. As our elected representatives cross new frontiers of social media, we wonder: who will be first on Snapchat? Messages have to be short, sharp and disappear quickly — sounds exactly like what PM Tony Abbott wishes he had right now with his pre-election promises.

Cash for campaigns? Tele says no. Campaigns by the Daily Telegraph have been ruffling feathers in many quarters recently, with the Bradfield Oration a chance to push the paper’s infrastructure agenda (which conveniently lines up with both state and federal governments), and the “forgotten” central coast getting pages and pages of coverage of its need for a hospital and university. Rear Window’s Joe Aston has consistently had the best coverage of the vested interests in the Central Coast Taskforce, which had another advertisement on page nine of the paper today. There’s no doubt that the group is buying ad space that is marked as such, but is it also buying editorial? Or has the Tele decided it needs to be more geographically diverse than just “for Sydney”?

The tabloid’s coverage of NSW Racing’s bid for wagering taxation parity (i.e. the racing body is upset that NSW has higher gambling taxes than elsewhere) that attracted one tipster’s notice over the weekend. In an editorial on Friday, the Tele called current taxation laws a “handicap” on the racing industry in NSW.  According to the Tele, these laws allow the NSW state government to collect a greater percentage of money from bets than in Victoria or Queensland. Crikey counted five articles covering the issue in the Daily Telegraph over the weekend alone, and the tabloid consistently focuses on the benefits of racing to the NSW economy and criticises the government’s decision to delay reform until after the next election. So is this another example of cash for campaign? We asked the Tele if the paper had received payment from Racing NSW for the coverage, but in an email to Crikey, managing editor Rhett Watson told us “the answer is no”.

Football, Formula 1 and journos in Abu Dhabi. According to the Fairfax papers this morning, A-League soccer clubs met in Abu Dhabi yesterday at a meeting called by the new owners of Melbourne City, the Abu Dhabi-controlled City Football Group (which also owns Manchester City and New York City football clubs overseas). But what was the meeting about? Do the oil sheihks of Abu Dhabi want to grab control of Australian soccer from the Lowy family? The ostensible reason for the trip was the final Formula 1 Grand Prix of the year, which was held late Sunday in the city. The city and the race was a popular destination for Australian tourists; we hear Virgin Australia (part owned by Etihad Airlines, the UAE’s national carrier, based in Abu Dhabi) took a junket of Australian journalists, which left late last week and returns today. We’ll be watching to see what stories appear in our sports pages in coming days.

Finding the tradesman’s entrance to Parliament. With the Victorian election less than a week away, we thought we had already found the worst campaign jingle of the year with this effort from the Greens. But independent candidate Jeff Bartram has taken the crown of weirdest (and possibly most offensive) campaign video. Bartram, who is running for the upper house in the Eastern Region, is campaigning on employment and training in the La Trobe Valley as key issues. We’re still not sure why he’s so against university qualifications — Federation Uni’s campus in the valley is one of the few sources of jobs left in the area.

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Peter Fray

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