Nine, Ten, countdown to Channel Nineteen
There’s been a curious role reversal between Channel 10 and Channel Nine in the past 5 years or so, made even more compelling with James Packer’s new 18 percent stake in 10.
The networks used to be opposites of the TV spectrum – Nine the heavy-weights in both budget and exposure – Ten the cut-price youngsters. Nine had a stable of headline stars. Ten was a quiet achiever. Nine had a formidable newsroom of senior journalists. Ten had a bunch of bright, hungry 20-somethings.
Then they started morphing into each other. Nine began carving away the newsroom budget, chunk by chunk. A lot of fat was shed, then a bit more. Young, ambitious 20-somethings started to feature in the 6pm line up. The tone changed from stable, solid (and sometimes predictable) to a more American, flashy, invigorated product.
At Ten, the news team matured. You even see some of Channel 9’s old stars like Hugh Riminton on the road. And then the Network, which had made its fortunes attracting young audiences, did a very old “Nine” thing – and announced a whopping $20 million investment in news programming and 100 extra jobs.
Another former Nine star George Negus was acquired to front a 6pm national news service that would appeal to an older demographic - a traditionally Nine demographic.
Behind the scenes -Nine’s former Sydney News Director Tony Ritchie and another senior Nine newsman, Ray Dale, have been helping pull it all together.
It’s all been rubber stamped, of course, by Ten Network Chief and former Channel Nine executive Nick Falloon, via parent company PBL. The investment and planning has been more than a year in the making. But, if industry rumours are to be believed, it could all be over before it starts.
Enter – the biggest name from Nine - James Packer. Role reversal complete.
The uncertainty in the Channel 10 newsroom right now must be excruciating. Will James Packer, with his newly acquired power in the Network use his boardroom power to oppose a broadening of the news and current affairs programming?
It wouldn’t surprise me, despite denials from inside the Network 10 camp. James Packer always had an eye on Channel 10 and it was made clear to those of us working at Nine even when we were still “The One”.
Packer made no secret to news bosses that lessons could be learned from Ten’s “cheaper” approach to news and current affairs. My news managers bemoaned the comparison made by their boss, but you couldn’t argue with the economics.
Ten may not have been a ratings winner, but it was making solid profits off the back of successful cheap buy-ins from the US like The Simpsons. You may not have turned to Ten when the big news broke, but their very watchable 5pm news was popular and profitable.
Ten staff have been latching onto management promises of sticking to the plan, but they must be anxious and more than a few have been asking Nine colleagues, “what’s it like to work for a Packer?”.
The answer depends on which Packer you’re referring to.
Willoughby’s Channel 9 headquarters has always been a ramshackle kind of a place with run down technology and an eclectic bunch of old buildings and cottages. From the outside, it looks far from glamorous, but Kerry Packer had the Cinderella effect. A sprinkle of his TV magic and the place shone – ready for the ball every night.
Back then, in Kerry’s day at the helm of Nine, (both times) it was well noted that most staff were paid less than their counterparts at second placed Seven. Why did we stay? Because we were winners.
Because the parties were better. Because we got a Christmas hamper.
The hamper was probably worth about $200, but it came with a card from Kerry. The loyalty it bought was priceless. When the great man died we never saw the hampers again. It upset people more than you can imagine. It was more than losing a hamper. It was what it represented. Nine had lost its shine. Had lost its soul. We were working for a corporation now, not a family.
The changes had come gradually and many under the charge of James Packer, whose hard nosed business sense many underestimate. But the hampers were the final blow.
I’ll take bets they won’t be introduced at 10. Sorry guys. Expect some big picture changes at 10, but not culturally.
Ten staffers wanting a real insiders perspective at what life was like under Nine need look no further than their newest recruit, George Negus. He’s never been sentimental about his former employer and laughs about Channel Nine mythology – tall, expanded stories about a time when TV really was a passion for its owners.
Negus told Gerald Stone in his book Compulsive Viewing that “I always regarded my time at Nine as mutual exploitation. They talk about loyalty all the time, loyalty, loyalty, loyalty. I don’t think they understand the meaning of the word.”
Let’s see what the future holds at the newly merged Channel 19.
Don’t miss: Get The Punch in your inbox every day
Get The Punch on Facebook
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…