Ten's link to News under fire
THE growing influence of News Corp on the Ten Network is expected to come under scrutiny, following the appointment of top News executive and former advertising agency executive Hamish McLennan to take charge of the broadcaster.
James Warburton was sacked late on Friday after little more than a year in the role of Ten chief executive, after deep job cuts to the news division and weak ratings leading to a $13 million loss for the year.
The Ten chairman, Lachlan Murdoch, is understood to have flown to New York 10 days ago to meet Mr McLennan to discuss taking on the chief executive role.
Laurence Freedman, one of a group of investors who rescued Ten from receivership in the 1990s, said it appeared the network's board "has agreed that ex-News Corp people will have a large say in the running of Channel Ten". "From an appearances point of view, there is a strong apparent influence on Channel Ten," he said.
Lachlan Murdoch owns a 9 per cent stake in Ten. He is also a director of News Corp.
Since joining News Corp in 2011, Mr McLennan has effectively worked closely as a special adviser to Rupert Murdoch, running the media firm's office of chairman. Before that he was the global chairman and chief executive of advertising agency Young & Rubicam.
Mr McLennan is also the chairman of the News Corp-controlled online real estate interest REA Group, a position he will retain.
While Mr McLennan declined a request for an interview on Sunday, he downplayed the links between News Corp following the appointment. "I am resigning from News Corp and will become an employee of Ten. They are completely different businesses," he told Fairfax Media.
The shake-up at Ten followed a string of programming flops and persistent poor ratings for the network, which counts billionaires James Packer, Bruce Gordon and Gina Rinehart as investors.
Even the former ratings juggernaut MasterChef is now trailing Seven's My Kitchen Rules.
Ten's reliance on some big US shows has failed to provide momentum.
An influential media buyer, Harold Mitchell, said Ten needed to go back to its roots and aim for a younger market.
"In its heyday, it [Ten] totally concentrated on a particular market, which was generally the under-40s," he said. "It tended to lose its way when it broadened and it tried to appeal to an older market, and therefore it lost its appeal."