After the backlash over comments made by David Leyonhjelm, Sky News has been busy this week talking up the size of its audience. Monday saw a puff piece in the Australian about how Sky News’ “formula of pugnacious, strong opinion programs and breaking news coverage of politics and national affairs” led to a 9% boost in ratings this year. Shows hosted by Andrew Bolt, Paul Murray, Peta Credlin and Chris Kenny are all booming apparently.
“The Bolt Report, anchored by News Corp columnist Andrew Bolt at 7pm on weeknights, had audience growth of 36%, watched by an average weekly audience of 239,000 viewers,” the Oz said.
“Paul Murray Live was the No 1 nightly program on Foxtel in its timeslot each Sunday to Thursday at 9pm. It was watched by an average weekly audience of 268,000 viewers.”
On the face of it, that’s not too shabby. After all, 7.30 with Leigh Sales on the ABC has an audience of around 600,000, so given it’s pay TV – which not all households have – that’s not too bad. For comparison, the top weekday program is usually the commercial news on about 1m.
Wait, not so fast. We looked at the raw data from ratings agency OzTam’s 5-city metro database. The actual number of people watching Bolt on any individual weeknight is 31,000 and Murray is 36,000. To get to the six-digit “weekly” figures for Bolt and Murray, Sky has used “reach” figures rather than the average audience across one episode on one night. Reach figures are the total number of people tuning into one minute of those programs across an entire week.
There are, however, more people watching the increasingly rightwing channel than there were last year. Bolt has gone up from 24,000 to 31,000, for example.
Outsiders, hosted by Rowan Dean and Ross Cameron, has gone from 17,000 in 2017 to 29,000 in the first half of 2018. So it looks like the lurch to the right is welcome after all.
We’re not sure if it was a ratings winner or not, but Bolt was just one of the Sky News presenters who had friendly chats with far-right YouTube activist Lauren Southern this week.
Caroline Marcus interviewed the visiting Canadian and called her a “gorgeous YouTuber” in her newspaper column. On Thursday night Bolt had the 24-year-old on to talk about how “Victoria police and leftist fascists teamed up to scare Canadian alt-right activist”.
Joh’s rules for magazine smackdowns
ABC TV’s Media Watch has been having fun lately with some of the more absurd claims made by women’s magazines. Host Paul Barry demonstrated how NW faked photographs of celebrities and made up quotes.
One of the local celebrities who is often featured in these bogus stories is Seven host Johanna Griggs, who made headlines in April for her on-air condemnation of the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games failing to celebrate the athletes. This week she took to Instagram to mock a story about her apparent weight loss. Woman’s Day had published a two-page spread on Griggs’ rules for losing 5kg fast. “Let’s count how many random, completely inaccurate things you’ve come up with this week,” Griggs wrote.
The former champion swimmer went through the claims in the article one by one, dismissing them as “shite”.
“If there was an award for creative writing – you’d win.”
Cave boys safe, attribution lost
Plaudits all round for Four Corners this week for Out of the Dark: The Extraordinary Rescue Mission to Save Thailand’s Lost Boys, a program they turned around in a week. Reporter Mark Willacy sat down with the key players in northern Thailand to tell the story about the miraculous rescue of 12 boys and their coach from the cave and it made for compelling viewing.
But the next morning there was a great deal of anger towards Channel Seven’s Sunrise when the Tuesday morning breakfast show took parts of four exclusive interviews from the show, covered up the ABC watermark and failed to acknowledge the program in a voiceover. In other words, they passed off the stellar work done by Willacy and the Four Corners team as their own. Seven News did the same thing. Sunrise executive producer Michael Pell apologised repeatedly on Twitter and claimed it was “an error”.
When Fairfax journalist Kate McClymont called Sunrise the “Daily Mail of TV”, Pell said it was a genuine error. “Supers covered ABC watermark. Corrected on air and I’ve apologised to all. Won’t be happening again. Our policy remains – full attribution.”
The response from former Media Watch host Jonathan Holmes to the behaviour was indicative of the fury of many.
Sunrise presenter Edwina Bartholomew was so embarrassed she offered her own personal apology.
Lockdown on Wentworth verdict
The rumours started circulating a few weeks ago that Foxtel’s acclaimed drama Wentworth would not be returning for an eighth season. Weekly Beast understands cast and crew were told season seven, currently in production, would be the last but to keep silent because the fans of Wentworth are very passionate and would react badly. With season seven set to air in 2019, Foxtel and production company Fremantle Media Australia were never going to concede the show had been axed.
The rumours were denied by both parties and the official line remains that discussions are ongoing.
It’s hard to keep the cat in the bag, however. An anonymous member of the cast posted on Twitter that the show was over and thanked the fans for watching. Another actor told fans not to write to the old address because “letters may not be received” and gave the address of her agent. Lead Wentworth actor Sigrid Thornton was asked about the future of the show when she made an appearance on Ten’s Studio 10 and said “my lips are sealed”.
Foxtel told Beast: “Discussions between Foxtel and Fremantle Media regarding future seasons of Wentworth continue. Season seven of the series will conclude production in Melbourne on Friday July 27.”
Fairfax keeps the Conversation flowing
Fairfax has lost another top journalist from its Canberra bureau. First Adam Gartrell left to work for Labor as a staffer and now the Age economics editor Peter Martin has resigned after 12 years at Fairfax to take up a new role as business and economy editor of the Conversation.
Martin will become the first Conversation editor to write a weekly column as well as leading the Conversation’s coverage of economics, and editing the work of academics and researchers across all of Australia’s 40 universities.
When he joins the Conversation at the end of August he will have a familiar roommate as he will once again be working alongside Michelle Grattan in Parliament House, in her role as chief political correspondent of the Conversation. Martin and Gratts were colleagues on Fairfax mastheads a decade ago.
Martin, a former Treasury official who left bureaucracy to become a journalist in the 1980s, will also continue to host The Economists podcast with University of New South Wales academic Gigi Foster on Radio National.
Trouble at union
The journalists’ union is pursuing its complaint about industrial relations journalists being banned from attending the ACTU congress dinner and an address by Bill Shorten.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance CEO, Paul Murphy, told the Weekly Beast: “At a time when our profession is facing an increasing volume of verbal attacks, derision, disdain and abuse and at a time when our own government appears to have an agenda to shut out, shut down and shut up journalists it was just the wrong thing for the ACTU to do. As a progressive organisation the ACTU needs to be better and we are going to continue to pursue this issue to see that it doesn’t happen again.”
And finally, Guardian Australia columnist, the MEAA vice president (media) for the Victorian branch, Van Badham, was unfairly targeted for enthusiastically tweeting Shorten’s speech while her fellow journalists were locked out. But Badham, who was attending the congress as a union office holder and speaker, told the Weekly Beast she had no idea they had been refused entry until after the event, saying: “There’s no question that as a MEAA member office bearer and unionist I back MEAA’s position.”