TelevisionAU Website Update 2-Oct-07

FLASHBACK #43: TV’s Movie Men
Some of the people that introduced our favourite movies on television became just as famous as the movies they spoke about.

TV Week, 19 September 1987

Melbourne (1967, 1984)
Melbourne and regional Victoria (1967)
Sydney (1961, 1975, 1981, 1984)
Canberra (1962)
Brisbane (1977, 1980)
Darwin (1998)
Hobart (1960)


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Nine gets Gyngell, and says “me too” to HD

For those at the Nine Network there must be a sigh of relief as the network announces the return of former chief David Gyngell to the fold after three years in the United States.

Gyngell’s return comes after some high-profile executive departures including the stepping-down of former CEO Eddie McGuire and resignation of news chief Garry Linnell.

David, the son of TV pioneer Bruce Gyngell, was in charge of Nine in 2004-05 but resigned after citing interference from senior management at Nine’s parent company PBL. But now, PBL’s new off-shoot PBL Media, which controls Nine’s east coast stations as well as regional operator NBN and Nine Darwin, is a different beast under the control of private equity firm CVC and after conceding defeat to Seven this year, Gyngell has been lured back to try and steer the network back to ratings leadership.

With Gyngell in control, and some promising programs from its supply deal with its American contacts, the network is facing a new optimism going into 2008. Also hoping to boost Nine’s fortunes in 2008 will be their new high-definition channel which has been announced by PBL Media chief Ian Law.

The new channel has apparently been in planning for some time though Mr Law has still been vague about what Nine has in store for the new channel which is apparently launching as soon as November – a month ahead of similar channels planned by rivals Seven and Ten which were announced weeks ago.

There is also some doubt about Nine’s ability to provide a dedicated high-definition program feed given their lack of expenditure to upgrade equipment in the past and also not having control over their whole five-city network – aspects which both Seven and Ten are ahead in. Nine has announced an upgrade of equipment worth $150 million but it is hard to envisage that being in place by November.

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Kate’s leaving Summer Bay

The end of an era in soap-opera land with Kate Ritchie – a soap veteran at the age of 29 – deciding to leave Home And Away after twenty years playing former foster child Sally Fletcher.

Ritchie, then aged 9, was part of the show’s original cast line-up and with fellow cast member Ray Meagher has hit the record books for the longest running characters in an Australian series.

Her departure from the long running series comes after a year that has included a stint as co-host on the drive-time program on radio network Nova, co-hosting Seven‘s popular It Takes Two, and winning the TV Week Gold Logie for most popular television personality. She will be taping her final scenes later this year, but will be appearing on-air until around April next year – which could be enough to inspire TV Week’s younger readership to vote her for another Gold Logie.

Ritchie is reported to be maintaining ties with the Seven Network while pursuing other interests.

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Burke’s back

Twenty years after launching Burke’s Backyard on television, garden guru Don Burke is back again at the Nine Network for Burke’s Backyard Spring Special.

Burke’s Backyard began as a radio program on Sydney’s 2UE and in September 1987 made the move to television with a Saturday afternoon timeslot which subsequently earned ratings high enough to justify a move to prime time – so it was not long before the program was shifted to Friday nights, just the right time to attract all those budding gardeners ready to tackle the weekend.

The move to prime-time in 1988 paid immediate dividends, and generated many thousands of letters sent in from viewers each week. The success of the program led to a magazine spin-off, and the program continued through the ’90s giving Nine strong Friday night ratings.

But by 2004, Nine decided that the show was “too old” and not sexy enough for the 21st century and let the program out to pasture, though Burke’s spin-off program Backyard Blitz, hosted by Jamie Durie, continued for two more years before it too was considered a bit old-hat.

However, Nine’s axing of the programs came back to bite them this year when rival Seven signed up Durie to host his own new show Australia’s Best Backyards. Nine tried to spoil Seven’s new catch with two-year-old, though unscreened, episodes of Backyard Blitz. The two shows have fought it out against each other, but both kept strong ratings – confirming the star-power of Jamie Durie, who has also captured the eye of one Oprah Winfrey who featured him on her show earlier this year.

Now as the supply of Backyard Blitz episodes has dried up, and as Nine’s creative cupboard is looking somewhat bare, they’ve decided that Burke’s Backyard was not such a bad show after all. Three years after axing it, they’ve given it a reprisal for a one-off special to up against Burke’s former colleague now at Seven – but if it rates, Burke and his backyard buddies could be back in a regular timeslot.

Burke’s Backyard Spring Special, Sunday 23 September, 6.30pm on Nine*

* Melbourne. Other areas check local guides/affiliates.

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Seven gets HD envy??

Nothing like a bit of healthy competition in the TV biz! No sooner has Network Ten announced their new high-definition channel to be launched later this year – the Seven Network has now announced that they will also be launching their own HD multi-channel in the coming months.

While Ten has put a name to their new channel (the very creative TenHD!) and given an indication as to the channel’s content, Seven have really only said that they will be launching a new channel so one suspects that they are not as progressed as Ten is but obviously using Ten’s lead to say “Hey, we’ll be there too!”.

It is probably safe to say though that Seven’s new break-away HD channel will feature a fair amount of sport – with the network having coverage rights to AFL, V8 Supercars and next year will have the Olympic Games. Plus they’ll no doubt relish the opportunity to extend their hit shows such as Dancing With The Stars, It Takes Two, Kath & Kim and City Homicide with time-shifting or additional features on the new channel.

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A new channel… seriously!

Exciting news in the world of digital television with the Ten Network announcing that they are going to be the first commercial network in Australia to offer a separately-programmed high-definition channel.

TEN HD, to commence in December, will offer programs currently simulcast with the analogue and standard-definition channels, but significantly also promises 50 hours per week of exclusive content plus 11 hours per week of time-shifted content including Ten News.

The new high-definition channel will include extended programming of its major franchise formats including Australian Idol, Big Brother, The Biggest Loser and So You Think You Can Dance, plus sports coverage, movies, documentaries and themed-programming such as dedicated sci-fi nights. The new channel will certainly boost the take-up of digital tuners which has lagged somewhat – in the six years since digital television began only 28 per cent of households have converted to digital free-to-air television and with analogue signals potentially being switched off in the next three to five years, there is a need to increase market penetration of digital receivers.

The launch of TEN HD marks the first channel since restrictions on high-definition multi-channels were lifted earlier this year and in metropolitan areas is the first digital multi-channel to launch since ABC2 began in 2005. From 2009, commercial networks will also be permitted to open an additional standard-definition channel – something that has been allowed on the national broadcasters ABC and SBS since digital television began in 2001.

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WIN and Nine.. friends again!

After months of negotiations and more than a fair share of hostility – even as recent as only days ago (see previous post) – the Nine Network and regional WIN Television have patched up their tattered relationship.

WIN has announced that it has signed a five-year agreement to source programming from Nine for its regional network and also its recently-purchased STW9 in Perth.

The deal will be a welcome relief for both networks as failure to come to an agreement could have had dire effects for either party, and also the viewers in WIN’s coverage areas that could have lost their Nine Network programs – although for those in South Australia’s south east and Riverland districts the deal may be too late as WIN has signed those respective stations to a program deal with the Seven Network.

So now we can all get some sleep!!

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WIN fires next shot in Nine battle

It seems to be a case of another day, another shot by regional WIN Television in their souring relationship with the Nine Network.

Negotiations between Nine and WIN, over the issue of affiliation fees, have been going on and off for most of the year, and has seen WIN act defiantly against Nine’s program line-up including dropping a number of Nine’s daytime and news programs from its schedule as well as the late-night Quizmania (now The Mint) – and now the latest blow to Nine comes as WIN chums up with the Seven Network to feed programs to its South Australian regional channels.

WIN and Seven have today announced their new-formed friendship which will see South Australian regional channels SES8 Mount Gambier and RTS5A Riverland change from a Nine-fed line-up, to a Seven Network schedule. This will mean that local viewers will now lose access to Nine’s programs as the only other commercial TV outlet in the area is also owned by the WIN group and carries a program feed from Network Ten.

WIN’s pairing up with Seven, while representing only a relatively small number of viewers, represents a significant change for the regional broadcaster which in the past has had a tight relationship with Nine, with some dealings with Ten. It will be with some interest to see how Nine reacts to this latest development – and how local viewers react to losing their McLeod’s Daughters in favour of City Homicide, and losing Days Of Our Lives to repeats of All Saints.

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Robert Fidgeon

Some sad news this weekend with the passing of TV writer Robert Fidgeon after a battle with cancer. He was 65.

Joining the Herald and Weekly Times (HWT) group in the 1960s, Fidgeon became a well known cartoonist and was famous for his weekly caricatures of TV personalities published in the now-defunct TV Scene newspaper.

After the demise of TV Scene in the late 1980s, he later returned to the HWT stable to head the art department but also found himself fulfilling an ambition to write about television for the Herald Sun. He later became the editor of the Herald Sun’s weekly television guide.

Fidgeon was well respected by industry identities, both on- and off-air, even the ones who he may have savaged in his newspaper column.

One of Robert Fidgeon’s cartoons, featuring Channel Ten newsreaders David Johnston and Jo Pearson, that appeared in TV Scene in 1987.

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Do we need SBS?

The Sydney Morning Herald has published an opinion piece by Paul Sheehan pondering the issue, do we need SBS?

Mr Sheehan is of the opinion that SBS, created at a time when there was little alternative media available, and which continues to cost taxpayers many millions of dollars a year for something that is only watched by around 4 per cent of the population, has now been made obsolete by the plethora of specialist news, sport and entertainment channels now available by other media such as pay-TV. A nice idea, for those that have or can afford pay television.

For the rest of us without pay-TV – and at this point that still makes up the vast majority of households in Australia – does SBS still have a valid place in society as an alternative to ABC and commercial free-to-air television? Or should the government, as Mr Sheehan suggests, disband SBS and sell of its valueable broadcast spectrum to the highest bidder?

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