Broadcasters deny stars are on the transfer list

AS we approach the half-way point of the 2001 Australian Football League season, intense local media focus on the Docker’s dismal season has overshadowed the high level negotiations taking place behind the screen.

With just 12 games remaining until the AFL finals, the News Ltd Consortium is slowly revealing details of its debut season in 2002, while Channel Seven looks to local programming and a number of high profile international sporting events to keep the sports team occupied.

Channel Seven remains adamant its key on-air talent will not be following the footy to Nine, Ten or Foxtel in 2002.

Seven Network director of corporate development Simon Francis said the star commentators at Seven would remain with the station, despite the loss of the free-to-air broadcasting rights for the AFL in 2002.

“All our key on air-talent who are skilled in other sports talents will remain. Our key on-air talent will remain,” Mr Francis said.

“Some of them remain under contract and others have had contracts renewed.”

If the Seven Network has locked up Dennis Cometti and Bruce McAvaney, Nine, Ten and Foxtel will be forced to build commentary teams without callers whose names have become synonymous with the AFL.

STW Nine Perth general manager Paul Bowen said he was unable to discuss any details of the 2002 AFL season, although he said Channel Nine is working on putting together a commentary team.

“It’s no good saying we haven’t spoken to Cometti. Most judge him to be the best football caller in Australia,” he said.

However, Mr Bowen was able to reveal that Nine, Ten and Foxtel will put together their own commentary teams.

The management details of the $500 million broadcasting con-sortium bid have not been released to the public, but both Network Nine and Ten dismissed rumours Foxtel were heading up the agreement, forcing the other networks down-stream from the action.

Network Ten general manager of sport David White said the rights were quite specifically allocated and each broadcaster had formed its own management team.

“Each broadcaster has its own head and we communicate on a regular and ad hoc basis,” he said.

“There’s no management team.”

Although the broadcasters are putting together their own commentary teams, it seems likely that they will share outside broadcast facilities at games, and Mr White said there was a possibility that some of the Network Ten commentators would be able to call Foxtel games, in certain circumstances.

“It depends, but it may be that some commentators we have are also able to call Foxtel,” he said.

Mr White was unwilling to make any comment on Channel Seven’s assertion the key on-air talent for the footy will not be jumping ship or whether Ten was interested in getting Mr McAvaney back on the team.

The details of the broadcast schedule assure fans will get to see their own team on free-to-air broadcast television, apart from in Victoria where there are 10 different teams.

One game will be broadcast by Channel Nine on Friday nights, while two games will be shown on Saturdays – one by Channel Ten and one by Foxtel. Channel Ten has the choice of which game.

And similarly, on Saturday night, two games will be broadcast – one by Channel 10 and one by Foxtel.

Three games will be shown on Sunday, with Channel Nine to choose two games while Foxtel will get the other.

Corporate relations at Foxtel were unwilling to make any comment on the management structure of the consortium or any details of commentary teams for 2002 season, saying only that it was premature to make any statement at this stage.

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