Something In The Air: articles


Something In The Air may be disrupted because of a dispute between the cast and crew and ABC management over the series' broadcast time.

ABC programming fight in the air

Production of Something In The Air—the only Australian adult drama now showing on the ABC—may be disrupted as the cast and crew lobby for programming changes.

The ABC’s new head of television, Sandra Levy, has until Friday to respond to their demand to double the series’ broadcast time.

Something In The Air is made by Melbourne producers Beyond Simpson Le Mesurier at a cost to the ABC of $11 million a series.

The contract requires them to make four half-hour episodes a week, suitable for broadcast at 6.30pm weeknights.

The first series of 160 episodes was shown that way. But ABC programmers halved the broadcast time for the second series and now show two half-hour episodes, back-to-back, on Saturday evenings.

The cast and crew continue to make four episodes—two hours of television—a week.

Actor Annie Phelan said the cast and crew worked “excruciatingly hard”, up to 15 hours a day, and were “livid” about the decision.

But they were mostly fighting to overturn a dangerous precedent.

Actors had signed contracts to work for 40 weeks, producing 40 weeks of television programming, Ms Phelan said.

“In the simplest terms, they (the ABC) are getting 80 weeks of work out of us for 40 weeks of pay.

“None of us would have signed that particular contract, at that rate of pay, to work those hours, if we knew that this was going to happen. I think it would be diabolical for the industry if they get away with this.”

A Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance organiser, Sue Marriott, said the decision led to “stockpiling” of episodes. Even if filming stopped today, the series could remain on air until April.

This meant the actors could be unemployed for a year while their images remained on TV.

“It does make a difference to their ability to work on other drama programs,” Ms Marriott said.

Many in the cast were already unhappy with the “lacklustre” promotion of the show, writing to Ms Levy last week to ask why the ABC had “so little faith” in their program. “It just seems a shame that they have spent such a lot of money… to let it all trickle away after we have all worked so hard,” actor Roger Oakley said yesterday.

The producers were also unhappy. Roger Le Mesurier, of Beyond Simpson Le Mesurier, said his company had invested $5 million in each of the series, but was not consulted about the programming. The company is believed to be exchanging legal letters with the ABC. Production winds up in August.

By Kylie Miller
June 13, 2001
The Age