Underbelly: articles

Nine reels from Underbelly ban

IT was to have been the series which relaunched Channel 9's bid to recapture the title of the nation's premier network.

Judge Betty King's decision yesterday to ban the screening of the controversial series Underbelly in Victoria not only robbed the network of that opportunity but also millions of dollars in lost advertising.

The 13-part series about the 1995-2005 Melbourne gangland war - which airs nationally tonight - was barred from Victoria because it could compromise a pending murder trial.

The decision prevents a beleaguered Channel 9 from broadcasting the sensational series in the city where the events took place.

The network spent more than $15 million producing and promoting the controversy-generating series it hoped would kick-start its 2008 performance after a bleak 2007.

Judy Moran, the wife and mother of three of the main players in the gangland war, yesterday praised Justice King's decision.

"This one's for me and my family," Ms Moran, clutching a glass of champagne, said.

"At this stage I think it's laughable that they could get it so wrong. I think she's (Justice King) made the right decision under the circumstances of the trial that's coming up; I think she's made the right decision for a lot of reasons, to be honest."

Senior media analyst and buyer Harold Mitchell said the ban would be thwarted by technology, with Victorians determined to see the show downloading bootleg copies from the internet.

"The program will go out on the net and there's no way people in Victoria who want to see it will be held back from doing so," he said.

Victorian viewers living on the South Australian or NSW borders can pick up legal television signals.

Nine executives had expected between 800,000 to one million Victorian viewers alone - meaning the ban jeopardises an estimated $3.9 million in advertising revenue over its 13 episodes.

It will not be seen by the audience Nine had promised advertisers, who are expected to seek compensation for the premiums they paid.

"Nine is charging $40,000 per 30 second (national) ad and there will be around 30 ads per hour, and the Victorian market accounts for 25 per cent of that figure," Mr Mitchell said.

Justice King issued the ban, after viewing all 13 episodes, because she said the program depicted in detail an alleged murder by a man who cannot be named but who is due to soon stand trial for a killing.

Nine will appeal but executives would not comment yesterday and series stars were banned from commenting.

By Marcus Casey
February 13, 2008
The Daily Telegraph