Last week, Channel Nine decided to fast-track its Schapelle telemovie in a transparent bid to capitalise on the media buzz surrounding the convicted drug smuggler's impending release from prison. Originally slated to run at 8:45pm on Monday, the show was rescheduled to 8:45pm Sunday. Until a few hours ago, the network still hadn't bothered to inform viewers what it intended to show in tonight's empty TV slot. And people wonder why Australians pirate so much.
Don't get us wrong; we're not condoning the illegal download of television shows via torrent sites. But the fact remains that most television networks in Australia have what could only be described as a casual disregard for their viewers.
For the past few weeks, anyone interested in watching Schapelle would have had Monday 10 February marked on their calender. To have this date abruptly changed due to a cynical ratings gamble is tantamount to a slap in the face — especially to viewers who were also keen to watch Channel 7's INXS telemovie, which also screened on Sunday.
Australia has barely enough locally produced drama as it is, so purposely putting two shows head-to-head is a disservice to everyone, networks included. By all accounts, the rescheduling strategy was an abject failure on Nine's part, with Schapelle finishing a distant seventh in the night's ratings.
Sticking to published program times isn't something that networks should mess with — it's one of the few advantages of traditional TV broadcasting. If you cant trust a show to run at the advertised time, then what's the point of free-to-air? It's certainly not versatility or the timeliness of content.
Update: According to TV Tonight, Channel Nine has belatedly updated tonight's scheduling: we can all look forward to a rerun of Schapelle plus a Nine News special about Schapelle Corby. Joy.