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Faking it

Posted August 24th, 2011 by debritz

One of the great criticisms newspaper and radio journalists often make of their television colleagues is that they work by the mantra that "if we haven't got pictures, it isn't news".

Some news, however, is too big to ignore - and that was the case for Channel 9 in Brisbane, which twice faked live crosses to the scene where remains believed to be those of missing schoolboy Daniel Morecombe were found. While the news crew pretended their helicopter was "near Beerwah", it and its crew were, in fact, at or near the station's studios on Mt Coot-tha.

Of course, TV news isn't the only culprit in the faking department. Newspaper journalists have been accused of making up quotes and facts, and, well before Photoshop made it oh-so-easy, doctoring photographs. Radio also has a long charge sheet in this department. As I was reminded just recently, ABC cricket commentators used to do "live broadcasts" of the game from the studio, using cables that gave the scores and other bare facts, then making up the rest.

As we progress in the digital age, where anybody can provide "news" online, one thing professional journalists have going for them is their integrity and sense of ethics. How can "real" journalists rail against the bloggers and aggregators when they themselves are found wanting?

Ruled by ratings

Posted August 22nd, 2011 by debritz

A contestant is singing on a TV talent show and suddenly, in the middle of the first chorus, she is yanked off the screen and we cut to another vocalist singing a completely different style of tune. On another channel, a newsreader introduces a report, but when we come back, there's somebody else in the anchor's chair; we never see the first guy again.

Welcome to a possible not-too-distant future when television ratings don't just come in the next morning - as they did in Australia today, showing huge numbers for The Block and Underbelly - but can be viewed in real time by the station's programmer, who will make instant decisions on the future of a show. If viewers start to change stations, the program will change immediately

Fanciful stuff? Well, perhaps not. Back in February this year, not long before Live from Planet Earth was axed after just three episodes, host Ben Elton complained that it wasn't being given enough time to bed in. He cited a list of extraordinarily good programs that rated very poorly in their first few episodes or seasons.

In today's economic climate, time isn't on anybody's side. If a show doesn't rate on TV (or radio for that matter), it will be pulled sooner rather than later*.

Does that mean we'll be missing out on some great TV that wasn't allowed to find its niche? Probably, yes. But then, as an old newspaper editor of mine once said, what the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve.

* There are some exceptions to this rule, driven usually by a broadcaster's personal or political agenda or by the laws dictating Australian content.

Doesn't add up

Posted July 21st, 2011 by debritz

While I don't disagree with demographer Bernard Salt's suggestion that the ABC spread its staff around the country a bit more, particularly in terms of TV production, I do note that Aunty has people in places the commercial media never even visits. What really struck me about Salt's piece in The Australian, though, was this:

(If the image doesn't load, it says: By my reckoning, the BBC is four times the size of the ABC in a nation of double the population.)
According to Professor Google, the population of Australia is 21,874,900, and the population of Britain is 61,838,154. Now, I'm not a demographer, but that's surely closer to three times.

The devil you know

Posted June 4th, 2011 by debritz

The fourth and final episode of the Eddie McGuire-hosted sport quiz Between the Lines has gone to air on Australian television. It's the third show starring the former "golden boy" and onetime CEO of Channel 9 to get the chop this year. The others were Million Dollar Drop and This Is Your Life, which may return as a series of specials later in the year. (The Courier-Mail's Geoff Shearer has the details, here.)

While McGuire's Hot Seat continues to perform well in the 5.30pm slot, executives and shareholders at Nine must be questioning their star's long-presumed status as one of the network's solid-gold drawcards. While the exact details are secret, McGuire is reported to be on a very lucrative long-term contract, and he presumably gets paid handsomely whether he's on the air or not. Right now, the question is: should the man who also hosts a relatively-low-rating breakfast show on Melbourne's Triple M radio station and runs AFL club Collingwood be permanently benched by the TV network?

It could, of course, be argued that the "vehicles" (i.e. the shows) were flawed and it wasn't McGuire's fault that they all failed to live up to expectations. It could also be said they they weren't given a proper chance to find their audience (we all know stories of classic TV shows that took a couple of series to hit their groove). But, then again, it could also be argued that Hot Seat is a winning formula and it would be a success no matter who was hosing it.

From a business perspective -- and that's the way Nine management has to look at things, not least beause it is considering a float -- McGuire would seem to be a liability who doesn't deliver sufficient "bang for the buck". But he's not the only one in the broadcasting industry.

It's very common for TV and radio stations to pay way over the odds (and well beyond market rate) to hang on to certain talent -- if only to keep them away from other neworks. Earlier this year, after rumours he was in talks with Channel 9, the Seven Network reportedly upped the annual salary of The Morning Show's Larry Emdur to "well in excess of $800,000 a year". The Sunday Herald Sun quoted a Seven source as saying the deal "set a dangerous precedent".

It's about here, I suppose, that I should make some sort of comment about what heart surgeons, nurses, teachers, police and fire officers etc. are earning for the very important work they do, but we can take that as read. The fact is that TV stations are commercial enterprises, and it's entirely a matter for the owners of those businesses to decide how much they want to spend and how much they want to earn from their investment.

My real concern is that because they always take the "safe" option of using the same talent on air and off -- how many opportunities are there for first-time writers and producers, for example? -- television is becoming blander and viewers are deprived the opportunity to see something genuinely new and exciting.

Thank goodness, then, for the theatre and the internet -- and for all-too-rare initiatives such as Andrew Denton's $30,000 "disfellowship" for an emerging screenwriter. The TV execs would do well to note that the new ideas -- the ones that will make them money in the future -- are not all coming through the traditional channels.

Farewell, Spicks and Specks

Posted May 25th, 2011 by debritz

In honour of Spicks and Specks, the ABC music quiz which will end at the end of this year, I demand that you watch this:

How do you Q?

Posted May 23rd, 2011 by debritz

It'd be easy to read too much into the Q Scores published today by The Australian. This "top secret" data is supposed to tell people in the TV industry who the public like and who they loathe.

It's good fun, especially if the star you love to hate ranks lowly. And as much as I agree with some of the findings, I'd hate to think that anybody would lose their job on the basis of these figures alone. For starters, the numbers are a year old, and if a week's a long time in politics then a year is a lifetime in TV. What the scores tell us is who the general public recognise most and whether they have strong feelings for or against them. Of course, many of us may dislike Sam Newman, for example, but some of us (not me) will watch him for that very reason. And while we may love Hamish Blake, he's still got to deliver with his new program for it to rate well. And, of course, somebody could come from out of nowhere and be put into a good role and instantly win our hearts.

The danger is that these numbers will encourage the thinking that only those people who are actually on the list are worth considering for TV jobs. If I were programming a television station or casting a new show, I'd certainly be analysing these figures, but I'd also be looking around for some fresh faces and new (not necessarily young) talent to put in front of the audience.

The Logies are a joke

Posted May 2nd, 2011 by debritz

Surely it's time to put the long-running television farce known as the Logies to bed. I've been saying that for years, but last night's gong show took the proverbial cake. I have met Karl Stefanovic and I like him a lot; I also have a lot of respect for him as a journalist and presenter. But he is not the most popular personality on Australian television. I know this because the only data that matters - the ratings - tell me so. Australians are given the choice of watching him on the Today show each weekday morning, and the vast majority of them decline. (And don't even get me started on how tiny the am TV audience actually is.) Still, he won a popular vote, apparently on the back of an aggressive marketing campaign by Channel 9 and some negative media comment about another favoured contender, Chrissie Swan (who is also not the most popular person on TV). The Logies are, in Woody Allen's words, a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham. If we are to give awards for television excellence, they should be voted on by the industry itself (as the Oscars and many other major awards are) or, as I suggested some time ago on a radio spot, by a compulsory poll of the entire Australian public. Any other system will provide a skewed and meaningless result.
Disclosure: I am not currently resident in Australia and I did not watch the Logies telecast, nor have I seen many of the programs that were nominated for the awards.

Rebooting Two and a Half Men

Posted March 14th, 2011 by debritz

Charlie Sheen is not welcome back on set, but the producers of ubiquitous sitcom Two and a Half Men have reportedly been considering another series of the show with somebody else in his, or a similar, role. Last night, it came to me that it's not Sheen's character who should be replaced. I note, thanks to, that Angus T. Jones, the actor who plays Jake -- the "half" of the title -- is 17 and will be 18 in October. He's hardly a child any more. So, why not build up his part, and introduce a new child to the show? Here's the way I see it: Charlie (Sheen) heads off to Vegas for a weekend to escape his usual women problems, and hits the jackpot when he gets a highly paid job as Celine Dion's accompaniest (now that's funny in itself). Meanwhile, Jake's father Alan (Jon Cryer) has also been to Vegas, to marry a woman from his past who he's just caught up with again. Just as Jake is getting used to the high life, living in that fabulous apartment all on his own -- and emulating his uncle in entertaining the ladies -- Alan returns. He's been dumped and left with a child to look after -- a stepson who, it's hinted (and this is stretched out for comedic and dramatic effect) might really be his flesh and blood. So we have the same mix, a hedonist with pretty girlfriends, a goofy dad and a precocious child -- plus, of course, an established supporting cast. If it works, it can carry on for quite a few seasons because the "half" will still be a child. What do you think?

Can Kath and Kim make it big?

Posted March 8th, 2011 by debritz

I'm not a big fan of Kath and Kim, so anything I write from here on in should perhaps be seen through that prism. No doubt many people will welcome the news that the popular TV show is to be made into a feature film. I question whether it will be a success. Making it big on the small screen is one thing, but stretching out what's essentially a one-joke idea to a feature length is quite another. If it's made to a modest budget, it could be a big success locally - at the cinema, with DVD and online sales, and TV rights. But the producers seem convinced that this will fly internationally -- and there I have my doubts. Sure, you can point to the success of the Sex and the City films, but SATC had a much bigger global following -- particulalry in America, where the big money is made at the box office. Remember, the US version of the show was a major flop, so the brand is tainted Stateside. Of course, I wish Gina Riley and Jane Turner success, but I wish they could've come up with an original idea -- as the Working Dog folks did when they made the transitition from TV to movies. Instead of making a feature-length version of Frontline or (god forbid) Funky Squad, they came up with the original idea that was The Castle, and then The Dish. Paul Hogan didn't leverage one of his TV characters into film, he created a new one for Crocodile Dundee -- and that became the biggest Australian film ever. If we really want another Australian-made global blockbuster, then maybe we should be looking elsewhere rather than recycling a TV show that's already reached its use-by date.
PS: Now for some devil's advocacy. I also question whether a Kath and Kim movie is a project that should attract taxpayer funding. The TV series was a big success, so if the producers really had confidence in the film, they'd seek to fully fund it through commercial investment. Shouldn't government funding be there to help give a leg-up to people with a great idea who don't have the funds -- or the powerful and wealthy friends -- to help make it happen?

My Oz TV predictions

Posted January 22nd, 2011 by debritz

Due to popular demand, here are my predictions for Australian TV in general, and the Brisbane scene in particular.
1. Audiences for the additional digital stations will grow slightly, but will level out during the year.
2. This will be the last year for Neighbours. Even if it is a modest success on 11, the new board will decide it has run its race (especially as it no longer commands a huge audience in the UK).
3. Ten's ambitious news strategy will be scaled back, if not abandoned altogether, before the end of the year.
4. The Nine network will continue its recent ratings gains.
5. There will be senior management changes at Seven and Ten.
6. In Brisbane, Nine news will make gains on Seven.
7. Sunrise will continue to lead Today, although the gap will narrow, and there could be line-up changes at Seven before the end of the year.
8. We will see more "blanket" coverage of major events on the main channels, with scheduled programs shifted at a moment's notice to the second and third stations.
9. Sky's experiment with Fox News-style shockjockery will be a success and may spawn imitations on network television. (Was Alan Jones Tonight ahead of its time?)
10. More, but different, reality shows coming our way, plus quite a few drama, reality and comedy/variety flops that will be pulled off air very quickly.

My Oz radio predictions

Posted January 8th, 2011 by debritz

1. More job casualties, on air and behind the scenes, at Australian radio stations, with big names almost certainly among them. In Brisbane, I think we'll see changes or programming tweaks at Fairfax (4BC and 4BH), Austereo (Triple M and B105), and ARN (4KQ and 97.3FM).
2. As part of that, I foresee the very dramatic early to mid-year departure of more than one announcer or team who's failed to live up to expectations.
3. I also see sweeping management changes at at least one Brisbane station when the big bosses down south finally start paying attention.
4. The drive-time slot will become more competitive following the departure of Austereo's Hamish and Andy. It will take some time (if ever) before there's a clear winner, but the trend towards national programs in this shift will continue. Within a decade, breakfast is likely to be the only "local" shift on some metro stations (as is already the case in the bush). Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised if there's an experiment with a national breakfast show, if not in 2011, then in the next couple of years.
5. In the radio ratings, the top end and bottom end of the ladder will become more crowded, with a clear division emerging between the winners and the also-rans. In Brisbane, this could mean one or two commercial stations dipping well below the current minimum of 6-7 points. (This is not something I want to see, but I really think it will happen.)
6. Nationally, with some prominent exceptions, I see the decline of personality-based radio. Many smaller stations will concentrate much more on music programming than on big-name talent.
7. In Brisbane, the ABC will be the one to watch. Spencer Howson will continue his winning ways in breakfast on 612ABC (and the commercial stations will continue to pretend he doesn't exist). It will also be a good year for Triple J, which will build on last year's big finish, and overtake at least one of the struggling commercial tailenders.
8. Among the commercial stations, Nova 106.9 will have a good year in breakfast, with the team of Meshel, Marty and Tim consolidating its gains from 2010. At B105, breakfast stars Labby and Stav may benefit from the increased exposure afforded by their new afternoon gig on digital TV channel Eleven, but that won't necessarily translate into radio ratings. As Eddie McGuire has discovered in Melbourne, success in one medium doesn't necessarily guarantee success in another - and fame can be fickle wherever you find it. While B105 is in a strong position, there were signs of audience leakage last year and that will have to be addressed. Triple M will also face a struggle to remain competitive in Brisbane - but nowhere near the problems it is facing in Sydney and Melbourne. If the addition of Mick Molloy to the mix in Melbourne and Sydney doesn't work, the whole Triple M brand could be scrapped to allow either for stations with their own callsigns under a loose national umbrella, or an entirely new network concept.
9. 2011 won't quite be the year of digital radio, but all the networks will need to focus on their multichannel offerings to have things right for when DAB+ gains real traction. The acceptance of the new TV channels will help pave the way, and make advertisers more receptive. Still, the existing analogue stations will continue to be the main game for a long time.
10. Only half of these predicitions will come true.

Battle of the bands

Posted November 25th, 2010 by debritz

A chart battle is about to begin in Brisbane, with radio personalities from across the spectrum involved in different charity musical projects. The Brisbane All-Stars' version of Do They Know It's Christmas will be competing with B105's Labby, Camilla and Stav, plus Alfie Langer and the Faith Lutheran College Choir with the modestly titled Brisbane’s Number One Hit Single. Both will be benefitting charity - the former a musicians' fund and the latter the long-running B105 Children's Hospital Christmas appeal - so, for once, there will be no losers.

Dunn gone, who's next?

Posted October 29th, 2010 by debritz

Update: Ash Bradnam and Chris Adams will be on 4BC breakfast from Monday. All indications are that Dunn and Calder did not jump.
With Jamie Dunn and Ian Calder having quit the breakfast shift at 4BC, the pressure is on station management to find a replacements or replacements who will, in popular parlance, take the station to the next level. AS I've noted before, BC has a long way to go before it matches the success of 3AW and 2GB, which command a huge slice of the listening audience. My feeling is that drive r presenter Michael Smith will lobby hard for the breakfast gig and may well get it, but I'm not convinced that he's the one to take the station forward. I think his strident views will be as much a turn-off as a turn-on, and BC may find itself with a different, but still not large audience. Having said that, Smith has the capacity to reinvent himself -- as he has done many times through his career -- and, perhaps with the right co-host, could crack at least double figures for the struggling station. As for other candidates, I think it unlikely that the high-rating Spencer Howson would be wooed from the ABC, and in any case ABC announcers have had mized success in the commercial media. More soon on this.
PS: I've also heard a rumour that veteran newsman Rod "Mr T" Tiley is leaving BC -- and Brisbane -- to be news director at 6PR Perth, and that Aaron Lucas and Thea Cowie are also moving on from the newsroom; Lucas to Triple M.
UPDATED:Here's the audio of Dunn and Calder signing off today. They speak about what they will be doing next week. Strange for people who allgeedly knew they were leaving.

Taking AFL to extremes

Posted September 25th, 2010 by debritz

While some people are obviously over the moon about the non-result in the AFL Grand Final, to me it highlights one of the many flaws of Australian football. To think that a game can go on for so long with no result is ridiculous in the instant-gratification 21st Century. And that's why I have decided to announce the launch of Extreme Australian Football, a new sport with rules that will please the diehard fans along with the people who just couldn't be bothered dedicating an entire afternoon to watch one game. With cricket moving away from the five-day game to 20-20, this sure make sense. While they've yet to crystalise, here's what I have come up with so far:
+ Two 25-minute halves
+ Non-stop play. The game goes on regardless. When a ball goes out of touch, another is thrown in straight away.
+ One five-minute multiball session per half; with five balls on the field and all goals and points counted. (Think pinball.)
+ Real tackling, around the legs as well as the waist.
I've already floated this on Twitter, and other suggestions include allowing players to jump into the stands to follow the ball, and the addition of a (presumably female) lingerie league. I reckon this has got potential, certainly for television. Are you with me?

Macquarie to move north?

Posted September 20th, 2010 by debritz

"A national talk radio network has massive appeal." So says Macquarie Radio Network chairman Russell Tate in this story in The Australian today. Tate says 2GB star Ray Hadley's new weekly Sky News television show - presumably an attempt to turn Hadley into Australia's version of Fox News's Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck - presents an opportunity to give the Sydney announcer a national profile. If MRN wants a national radio network (despite so far poor results for its MRT station in Melbourne), it would need a presence in Brisbane - which could be a very good thing for the market. But where would MRN obtain a signal? Fairfax is unlikely to sell 4BH if the buyer's aim is to compete with 4BC, and ARN's 4KQ may not be setting the world on fire, but selling it would leave the broadcaster with just half a licence in Brisbane (it co-owns 97.3Fm with DMG). Would a joint venture (as MRN has in Melbourne) be out of the question? If a new licence did become available, where would the audience come from? Well, as I've noted far too many times on this blog, commercial radio underperforms in Brisbane, so you'd have to assume there's a good 10% of people who are currently listening to something other than 4BC (or 612ABC) but would make the switch if the product was right. Then there'd be a significant amount of movement between the three talk stations. And if MRN did have a Brisbane station, whose voices would it feature? You'd have to think that Spencer Howson - the city's No.1 breakfast announcer - would be high on the poaching list (even though ABC announcers have enjoyed mixed success in the commercial world). Also, I'd be looking at some commercial FM people who may suit the talk format as they mature. Meshel Laurie, perhaps? Other than that, Mr Tate, I'd be thinking outside the box. There's plenty of Brisbane talent that isn't on air (or even in the country) at the moment.
Disclosure: Until last month, Brett Debritz had a regular spot on the top-rating Breakfast with Spencer Howson program on 612ABC. Prior to that, he had a long-running stint on 4BC. He is no longer heard on any Brisbane radio station, but ...

It's the message, not the medium

Posted September 1st, 2010 by debritz

Are television stations becoming irrelevant? When we thought of television just a few years ago, it was often in terms of the most successful network. For example, in the US it was NBC's Thursday-night lineup of great comedies; here in Australia Channel 9 was a powerhouse across the board. There was an audience out there that almost never changed channels. Now, the focus is very much on individual shows. MasterChef is the perfect example: with it, Channel Ten earned supreme ratings glory, without it, Ten was relegated to fourth place on some nights. The fact is that, despite the stations' sneaky attempts to keep us glued (usually by running popular shows beyond their scheduled finish time), we are more willing than ever to switch stations to follow the programs we like. We'll also record, time-shift and download the shows we want to see and often, horror upon horror, fast-forward through the ads). That's why the longterm future for successful TV networks won't be as simple broadcasters, but as producers and distributors of the content people want to see. In the short term, though, they are creating digital channels in the hope that their mix of reruns and cult-appeal first-run shows will attract the audience members who aren't tuning in to the main stations. Eventually, though, we'll all be able to download legally whatever we want whenever we want. The channels' biggest hope then will be to create more and more "event" television, like MasterChef, that relies on us all watching it at once, tweeting about it as we go, and chatting about it over the watercooler the next day.

Four for thought

Posted August 27th, 2010 by debritz

In a week that has already seen Australian networks Seven and Ten announce new digital channels (7-mate and Channel Eleven), Britain's Channel 4 has unveiled its autumn season with at least one idea we'll undoubtedly be seeing in the antipodes soon. Channel 4, which is screening its final series of Big Brother, is to launch a "docu-soap" called Seven Days in Notting Hill. According to the Guardian, "viewers will see events that have only just taken place [and] will also be able to give online advice to the people in the show". I imagine Ten or one of the other Australian networks is already eyeing "Seven Days in Bondi Beach". Channel 4's schedule will also feature comedy series from Morgana Robinson (described as "Kenny Everett without the beard"), Frankie Boyle (a Scottish comedian who was the standout performer in the panel show Mock the Week, which hasn't screened here) and Robert Webb (solo, without his higher-profile partner David Mitchell). I'd like to think Australian audiences will be seeing all of that somewhere sooner rather than later.

Style counsel

Posted August 21st, 2010 by debritz

A brief beef: I am sick of seeing and hearing news items where local governments are referred to simply as "council" without an article. Would we write or say something like: "Mr Bloggs said bank would put up interest rates"? No. Yet we often read or hear in the media the likes of: "Cr Nerk said council would approve the project." I know public servants and politiicans speak this way but that's no reason for media professionals to follow suit mindlessly.

From the archives ...

Posted August 1st, 2010 by debritz

This weekend's picture from my past features a funny old fellow. Or two, depending on how you look at it.

It's all about the shows, stupid

Posted July 30th, 2010 by debritz

Like about 1.5million Australians, I sat down on Wednesday night and watched the winning ABC trifecta of Spicks and Specks, Gruen Nation and Yes We Canberra. The shows gave Aunty, which regulalry comes fourth in the ratings, the top three spots on the night's ratings chart, and helped push Channel 10 -- which had been riding high until very recently on the success of MasterChef -- to the overall No.4 position. (There's more on the numbers here.) What it all proves is that the days where viewers would stick to the same station hour after hour, night after night have long gone. Now, more than ever, we pick and choose the programs we like, wherever we can find them. With the internet offering a whole new range of ways to access programming, this presents a big challenge to the broadcasters -- unless, of course, they are also in the business of making the shows that people want to see.

The next big thing after MasterChef

Posted July 27th, 2010 by debritz

With MasterChef having sailed off into the sunset for 2011 [correction: 2010], what will be the next big gastronomical reality show on television? Well, if I have my way, it will be Australia's Best Cook, a competition to find somebody among us who excels in making real Aussie tucker rather than 3-hat restaurant fare. Ideal contestants would include bachelors and bachelorettes who specialise in domestic meals for one and busy mums to cooks from country pubs and suburban clubs who keep the masses fed with tasty but simple fare like lamb chops and veg, steak sandwiches, works burgers, seafood baskets, pavlovas and lamingtons. Bringing the best qualities of both Matt Preston and George Calombaris (i.e. fat and bald), I'd be one of the judges. Sounds like fun? I really think so -- now I just need Shine Australia, Fremantle Media and/or one of the networks to get behind it. You can hear me speaking about the proposed format towards the end of today's spot with 612ABC's Spencer Howson, where I also talk about an online newspaper integrity index and reveal some Doctor Who gossip.
Update:The edited audio describing Australia's Best (Basic) Cook is here.
PS: If you're in the TV business and want to know more about the format -- and trust me, there is more -- contact me here.

Not the one any more

Posted July 26th, 2010 by debritz

In an ever changing world, some things stay the same. One of those things used to be the fact that Channel 9 broadcast the highest-rating commercial television news service in Brisbane and, indeed, in Australia. That success was built on solid news judgment, selective hirings from other networks (particularly the ABC) and a reputation for trustworthiness. Somewhere in the past few years, though, the banner has been passed to Channel 7. Sure Nine is still the home of Laurie Oakes, the journalists' journalist, and a few other heavy hitters, but people aren't buying it like they used to. In Brisbane, Seven is now the viewers' station of choice. Today, Seven claimed the ratings year for news and current affairs. In a media release, the network said its News, Today Tonight and Sunrise had an "unassailable lead in the 40 week ratings year in south east Queensland". The statement continued:

7 News and Sunrise have both won 22 from 22 weeks while Today Tonight has won 21 from 22 weeks in the 40 week ratings year. Max Walters, Managing Director of Seven Brisbane said,“ This is the fourth year running that our flagship news and public affairs programs have won the ratings year in south east Queensland, a wonderful achievement in such a competitive market . SEQ audiences continue to turn to 7 News, Today Tonight and Sunrise to keep them informed on local, national and international events.”

PS: In its media release, Nine claims overall SEQ victory last week (by a whisker), bringing its total this year to 17 out of 22 surveys.

Search for a star

Posted July 24th, 2010 by debritz

We live in an age of celebrity. You can't pick up a newspaper or magazine, or switch on the TV, radio or internet, without seeing something about Brad and Ange, Tom and Katie, Lindsay or Britney. Like it or not, they've become the subject of many a watercooler conversation and, dare I say it, are genuine "household names". On the national front, there are the big names of TV (Bert, Kerri-Anne, Eddie and Ray among them), plus a smattering of musicians and, largely now-expat, movie makers (Hugh, Russell and Nicole). Recently, the finalists of MasterChef, Callum and Adam, have joined that hallowed society -- but for how long is anyone's guess. You'll note here that I've mentioned only first names but I reckon almost everybody reading this would know exactly who I'm referring to. Which brings me to the big question for Queensland readers only: Who are Brisbane's household names? Which homegrown talents, in whatever field, are instantly recognisable to a large portion of the population (not just the media junkies who read this blog) by their first name or nickname? I've got a few ideas of my own, but I won't be writing them down just yet. Suggestions by email or by Tweet, please. When I've assembled a list, I'd like to test the theory with members of the GP. Maybe we'll all get a surprise as to who's really on the A-list and who isn't.

Hey Hey not here to stay

Posted July 18th, 2010 by debritz

I speculated in a tweet a few days ago that Hey Hey It's Saturday might not come back after its mid-season break, and I got some interesting responses. A lot of what is said about Hey Hey comes from sentiment, a deep affection for the original show that was part of so many Australians' childhood and youth. But the cold, hard fact is that, despite the success of last year's reunion specials, it just isn't cutting it in 2010. Spencer Howson points out that Hey Hey Red Faces judge Red Symons told him on 612ABC that the show will be back later this year, possibly on a Saturday. Hey Hey currently faces tough competition on a Wednesday night from the all-conquering MasterChef, but there's not much evidence to suggest it would do significantly better in another timeslot. And, when you factor-in the enormous costs of "live" television -- Daryl Somers' undoubtedly large salary, the band, the touring acts etc. -- Hey Hey is expensive television, and TV networks don't like to spend big money unless they get big returns. According to last week's figures, Hey Hey had an average national audience of 849,000 against MasterChef's 2.1 million and, in its second hour, Lie to Me's 950,000. Of course, MasterChef is a formidable opponent and, as I said in my tweet, Hey Hey probably deserves a run when it isn't competing against the single most popular show on TV. It may come back after the Commonwealth Games but I doubt we'll be seeing it again next year. Surely Nine can't afford to throw good money after bad. While there are examples -- like Neighbours and Seinfeld -- of programs that built momentum after very slow debuts, you must remember that Hey Hey isn't a new show, it's a revival of a show that hit its peak in the 1980s. The Nine network desperately needs to plough what original production money it does have into a show that has MasterChef potential -- the realistic chance it will pull in big ratings numbers, and thus advertisers' dollars, regardless of what's scheduled against it. Hey Hey isn't that show.

TV's next big hit?

Posted July 17th, 2010 by debritz

You read it here second: the next big talent show to hit Australian television will be called Don't Stop Believing. The Guardian reports that the show's format has been sold to the Ten network, which dumped Australian Idol last year. The UK version, which will screen on Channel Five from this weekend, is being pitched "as an energetic feelgood competition to find Britain's best all-round singing, dancing and acting group". It's being sponsored by retailer Argos and a deal is in place with MySpace for clips to be used on the social network site. The show will be "deliberately softer and less cruel than The X Factor". So, no Kyle Sandilands clone on the judging panel, then...

Hear is the newts

Posted May 23rd, 2010 by debritz

I was having lunch in a pub in Horley yesterday, watching the BBC News with the sound turned down and the subtitles on. And the captions were woeful to the point that it was almost impossible to follow what was going on. In a story about technology that allows medical students to practise injections on a virtua "arm", the subtitles typed that it helped them "find out where the famous". Or, presumably, where the vein is.

King of the deals

Posted May 18th, 2010 by debritz

Gee, Kyle Sandilands really does have a good deal with Channel 7. Not only has he been confirmed as a judge for the revamped X-Factor, his wife Tamara Jaber (described by Seven as a pop star, despite her lacking the series of hits one would expect to accompany such a description) is on the next season of Dancing with the Stars. A Seven media release confirms the full line-up as:
Alex Fevola, celebrity photographer
Tamara Jaber, pop star
George Houvardas, Packed to the Rafters actor
Jo Beth Taylor, performer
David Wirrpanda, AFL legend
Rachael Finch, Miss Universe Australia 2009
Esther Anderson, Home and Away actress
Jason Stevens, former rugby league star
Rob Palmer, Better Homes & Gardens DIY guy
Blair McDonough, actor
Melinda Schneider, country music star

Giving the youngsters a Go!

Posted May 17th, 2010 by debritz

Channel Nine's Go! Network is introducing short news bulletins called Newsbursts. A Nine media release says they will play four times each weekday at 3.30pm, 5.00pm, 7.30pm and 8.30pm. The release says: "Devina Smith be the first host for the news service. Each week Go! will rotate the hosting duties among the younger journalists from the Nine newsroom."

Numbers game

Posted May 15th, 2010 by debritz

The BBC's Have I Got News for You pointed out this gaffe from an item by Jason Beattie in the UK's Daily Mirror:

Guest host Martin Clunes quipped: "Forever, d-ckhead. The next one will be the 54th."

May 17 updateIn a similar vein, Channel 9 Brisbane has sent out this media release:
Sorry, but you can only win week 12 once.

Will X mark the spot?

Posted May 15th, 2010 by debritz

The Seven network's decision to invest heavily in The X-Factor will certainly bring a smile to the face of Simon Cowell, who is also trying to kickstart the franchise in the US. But does Australian television really need another talent show? What the industry really needs to do is invest in talent that can create and nurture new shows that aren't talent shows.

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