Nearly five years after it first aired, it appears the News Corp-produced political panel show The Bolt Report will not be returning to Channel Ten this year.

The Bolt Report hasn’t been renewed by Channel Ten in 2016, reported The Australian this morning. The network hosed down speculation anything was final, saying no decision on the show’s 2016 run had been made (the show usually starts up around when Parliament sits in late January/early February, so the network doesn’t have long to come to a decision). But on his Herald Sun blog, host Andrew Bolt seemed to confirm the show won’t be appearing in its present form on Channel Ten — but he said it was wrong to say the channel no longer wanted the show.

“A report in The Australian today says Channel Ten does not want The Bolt Report any more. This is not true. The issue is that my show is produced by News Corp, and several options are being considered which I can’t discuss and which I am thinking about. If anything, they involve doing more TV, not less.”

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Nonetheless, Bolt says his preference is to stop working seven days a week. He adds that he is unenthused by the prospect of the 2016 federal election.

“One liberating factor is that I now don’t feel so much that I have a dog in the next election fight. I can do other things without feeling I am deserting. Or am I wrong? One more thing to ponder up here in Arnhem Land.”

Bolt is in Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory, presumably for the filming of I Can Change Your Mind About Recognition, a show to air on the ABC in 2017. The show will feature Bolt, a frequent and vocal critic of attempts to recognise indigenous Australians in the constitution, going head-to-head with NSW Labor deputy leader and Aboriginal politician Linda Burney, who advocates constitutional recognition.

The Bolt Report was launched in mid-2011, shortly after Gina Rinehart was appointed to the Channel Ten board. Ten’s chairman at the time strongly denied Rinehart had any influence on the station’s programming, as was widely speculated. Rinehart, who has previously stated her preference that Bolt appear more on the network, still owns an 8.52% interest in Ten.

Given its subject matter, The Bolt Report has often been seen as a natural competitor to the ABC’s Insiders (the two shows ran in the same time slot when The Bolt Report first launched). In 2012, the Channel Ten show attracted more viewers, averaging metro 272,000 viewers over two screenings in 2012 compared to Insiders’ 261,000 average viewers in that year, and in 2014, the show was extended to an hour. But Insiders has, in recent months, strongly improved its audience figures. It strongly eclipsed The Bolt Report in 2015, averaging metro 329,000 viewers across both the ABC’s main channel and ABC News 24.

Nonetheless, media analyst Steve Allen says the Bolt television experiment has been a success, demonstrating a demand for openly partisan news and current affairs programming on Australian television.

For Channel Ten, he notes, the program provides credibility on news and current affairs, which Ten has cut into in recent years. “It’s pretty thin otherwise,” he says.

The Australian’s report this morning said that Bolt was “on the radar” for Sky News, which already has a number of News Corp columnists and journalists fronting regular programming. News Corp partly owns Sky News, and is currently conducting high-level diligence about buying the rest of the company from its other shareholders.

But the gains are greater for having Bolt on Channel Ten, Allen says.

“He won’t achieve the same ratings on Sky … If I was sitting in the marketing offices at News, I’d be having a robust discussion about maintaining it on air at Ten.

“You can look at these things, and say it’s an advertorial for a News Corp columnist that would bring people to their mastheads. That’s one of the reasons you do masthead television.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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