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George ‘Negusised’ to 6:30

With more than 30 years in current affairs George Negus won't read a script that hasn't been 'Negusised', a term of his own volition.

George Negus starts most days at home by getting up to speed on overnight news before making his way to TEN’s Pyrmont Studios for meetings with the team at 6:30.

“I start the day by making sure I know what’s going on around me. Some of it’s national, international, print, non-print, online, and I have my own sources. I deliberately make sure my sources aren’t the same as everybody else so I’ve got something fresh to add. Then I talk to (Producer) Tony Ritchie before everybody gets together,” he explains.

“It becomes a mix of ideas from everywhere and sorts itself out until about midday and then it changes again because sometimes we’re involved in running stories. So we have a reservoir of stories with a longer shelf life.

“By about 2:00 usually over finger food, not lunches, people start feeding me the introductions to their scripts and I ‘Negusise’ –that’s a term that sits in Australian television.”

Negusise?

Negus, a veteran of over 30 years in news and current affairs, is famous for talking about himself as a brand. But with his colloquial manner and sense of humour it’s hard not to let him. After all, this is the bloke who riled Maggie Thatcher right?

So what does Negusise mean?

“It means I take on what some other poor bastard has written and hope I might say on television and then turn it into what I would say,” he says.

“And there are a lot of people on Australian television who will laugh their heads off when they realise ‘Oh shit I’ve been Negusised again!’

“What you hear and what you see is me, for better or worse. So I can’t blame anybody else. I just don’t read autocues and scripts somebody else has written. Never have, not about to start.

“Newsreaders and some current affairs presenters are just given the script to read, but I don’t.

“Why hire Negus and have Negus telling somebody else’s clichés when he’s got his own?”

Yes Negus is indeed big on ‘brand Negus’, and so is TEN which moved 6PM with George Negus to 6:30 with George Negus last night. Back in the 6:30 timeslot (where ABC’s George Negus Tonight last aired in 2004) he is taking A Current Affair and Today Tonight head on.

But the former Dateline host isn’t especially drawn on the lack of success at 6pm, the war at 6:30pm or the unrest in TEN management. He just wants to get on with journalism.

“I see (the switch to) 6:30 being an observation of the market and a reaction to it. I would have expected them to do something like that. I personally was not hired to do a programme of this kind at 6pm. I was hired to do a programme of this kind,” he says.

“Television management is television management and television journalism is television journalism. They do what they do, and I do what I do, and I’ve successfully navigated my way through the television landscape for 30 odd years with that attitude.”

Negus joined TEN’s news revamp under former CEO Grant Blackley, before new shareholders James Packer, Gina Rinehart and acting CEO Lachlan Murdoch moved in. Since its January launch the show has struggled to reach 400,000 viewers a night at 6pm but Negus says a lot of the negativity towards its performance was encouraged by competitors.

“There are people out there somewhere in television land, and you don’t have to be a genius to work out who, who would have probably have preferred a programme like this never to have come into existence,” he says.

“So how do I feel? Quite frankly, too busy doing it to think about that.

“I’ve had ABC managers disappearing off the face of the earth, I’ve had Channel Nine changes. It’s not foreign territory to me.”

But he also admits that during the period of change he is yet to have a conversation with Murdoch about his programme.

“Lachlan has transmitted messages to me, he’s a busy man. I’ve been directly acquainted with Lachlan’s views and I’m not bothered by anything he’s said,” he says.

“He and I have made several attempts. But each time we make attempts to get together over a meal something happens.”

Instead he works directly with producer Tony Ritchie, TEN’s Head of News Jim Carroll and Programming Chief David Mott. In the daily grind of television production talent isn’t necessarily privvy to the musings of a CEO.

“I know they deal with Lachlan and others.”

The first show in the new timeslot looked at chilldcare, corporate wars between supermarket giants, the impact of floods on reptiles, grassroots ALP membership, rioting due to the burning of the Koran, swimmer Te Haumi and an interview with Hamish Macdonald. It’s a change from diets, bra stories and parking fines.

But the mark of any good current affairs show is surely in breaking news stories, not merely reacting. Does Negus anticipate the re-tooled News department to be delivering stories that resonate in the wider media?

“It will happen. If you’re doing your job it will happen, it already has happened. We scooped everybody because of an interview I did with Chris Bowen about the kids from Christmas Island. Tony Windsor told me last week he might switch sides if Malcolm Turnbull became Leader of the Opposition again,” he insists.

“If a programme knows where it’s headed and knows what it’s priorities are, my experience has been that will happen without people concocting a way of breaking a story. But if a scoop turns up I won’t knock it back.”

But he’ll probably Negusise it.

6:30 with George Negus airs weeknights at 6:30 on TEN.

26 Responses

  1. If you could make inquires into the free offers that are advertised on TV. I took an offer from the company “Nude by Nature” for a free trail , but received an account for over $200. I have tried to contact this company a number of times but they wont return my calls. I have been on the internet to contact then, but the site is another company, and was told that “nude by nature” has not been with them for over two years. Yet the bill I received still has this wed site for a contact

  2. was wondering why you have only just got onto the story of sugar mills making power. Were I grew up the ISIS sugar mill has been pumping its power that is made back into the power grids for as long as I have been alive. Everything that is left behind from the sugar at this mill get used up by other business that have started up thanks to this 1 mill. So why is it that the small mills never get and recognition for there work it all ways go to the larger mills??

  3. I hope you’re happy, Network Ten news department. Don’t you remember what happened to Jana Wendt on 90’s ACA when you forced her to do ‘tabloid’ current affairs? She dumped 9 and went to SBS. If I were you George Negus, don’t let Ten f*** up your hard-earned journalistic legacy by making you compete with Tracy Grimshaw and Matt White. It’s not too late George! Run back to SBS or better yet, head to ABC News 24. News 24 could use your hard earned experience to really f*** up Sky News!

    PS. As for the ‘new’ 6:30 with Negus, it’s either screwed like Alan Jones Live (Carmel Travers! I still hate her for getting rid of Hinch and forcing Derryn to do Ray Martin’s job), or it might last a month, 20 ratings weeks, or a year.
    PPS. Again, you can still save your career, George Negus! Don’t end up like Alan Jones Live, SBS or ABC News 24 awaits you! Go now!

  4. Really solid line up stories on Negus – Australian Defence Force scandal, jumps racing debate and workplace bullying. Meanwhile, it’s the miracle pawpaw treatment on ACA & TT.

  5. Watched it for only the third time last night. Still a bit disconcerting that a “serious” format has a host sans tie. But that’s just a minor issue. The quality of the stories last night were good – sharp, focused, pacy. And unlike the other two… informative. I think Riminton, Palmer, MacDonald, Isedale et al are all quality journalists so I implore Murdoch/Rinehart just to let this show grow. We need a serious current affairs programme.

  6. He should do well at 6:30pm but what they could have done was retain Homer and Bart at 6pm as the lead in offering instead of bombarding us with a 5 to 6:30pm News bulletins.

  7. Great fun piece, David ….

    One explanatory point I would make is that I only refer to the so-called “Negus brand” — usually with my tongue very much in my cheek, as you might expect — because others have and do use the bloody term …. They tell me that’s what you become after my longevity in the media, television in particular — whether I like it or not!! Self respect is very different from ego, as we discussed ….

    Cheers,

    GN

  8. Another good interview, David. I don’t know how many regular TT/ACA viewers would actually make the switch to something more worthy. Perhaps much of the increased audience will be people who don’t normally watch TV at 6:30pm. I think Ten will prob be happy if he can consistently rate above 600k.

    +1 for the Denny Crane reference.

  9. I would think that neither ACA or TT will lose audience as they are not really news shows but entertainment shows and as bad as they are their audience loves the crap they serve up.
    I hope Negus can expand his audience though as it’s certainkly a worthy format for a show.
    Myself, I watch News on ABC3 at this time because that’s what the kids watch.
    I would certainly give Negus a crack if I get the opportunity though.

  10. I wish George the best of luck in this timeslot. The people have spoken, and the network responded. Altho i consider myself a cluey fellow and not dumb, i am all too easily lured into some of the bollocks that TT or ACA will tease and spruik. 10 are valiantly hoping that people will tire of the nonsense, despite Grimshaw being a good journo, and TT speaking to the ‘everyday person’, and turn to the more integrity focused Negus and a good team of journos, content as a viewing habit for the slot. Note to self: turn to 10 at 6.30pm! Great iv with George btw.

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