In the cutthroat world of commercial television, if your argument isn’t getting heard, you can always sue.
It was revealed yesterday afternoon that Channel Seven was taking Channel Nine to court, after Nine claimed its Today show had, for the first time ever, been more popular than Sunrise in 21 of the 40 weeks that make up the regular ratings year. Nine got big splashes in the papers with that claim, but it took only hours for Seven to respond bitterly in a series of press releases. Seven says Nine is being disingenuous in only counting metropolitan audiences — Seven is very popular in regional Australia, but regional viewers are generally excluded from the most-cited TV ratings (with the exception of those in Crikey). Seven also quibbles over a decision by Nine to exclude the two weeks of the Olympics — Nine responds that it’s common industry practice to do so.
All this has been hashed out, but it can make one’s eyes glaze over. The headline is simplier: Today beat Sunrise for the first time in over a decade. So Seven is suing, officially to stop Nine marketing Today as “Australia’s No 1 Breakfast program”, which it did in a press release over the weekend.
But there’s another way to look at it. Regardless of how the court case goes — and most expect it’ll be settled before a judgment as almost all cases involving the networks are — Seven now has the means to have its argument heard more clearly through all of the reporting on the case. Sure, there are legal fees, but sometimes that’s the price of publicity. — Myriam Robin